Filtration Efficiencies of Nanoscale Aerosol by Cloth Mask Materials Used to Slow the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

ACS Nano. 2020 Jul 28;14(7):9188-9200. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.0c05025. Epub 2020 Jul 7.


Filtration efficiency (FE), differential pressure (ΔP), quality factor (QF), and construction parameters were measured for 32 cloth materials (14 cotton, 1 wool, 9 synthetic, 4 synthetic blends, and 4 synthetic/cotton blends) used in cloth masks intended for protection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus (diameter 100 ± 10 nm). Seven polypropylene-based fiber filter materials were also measured including surgical masks and N95 respirators. Additional measurements were performed on both multilayered and mixed-material samples of natural, synthetic, or natural-synthetic blends to mimic cloth mask construction methods. Materials were microimaged and tested against size selected NaCl aerosol with particle mobility diameters between 50 and 825 nm. Three of the top five best performing samples were woven 100% cotton with high to moderate yarn counts, and the other two were woven synthetics of moderate yarn counts. In contrast to recently published studies, samples utilizing mixed materials did not exhibit a significant difference in the measured FE when compared to the product of the individual FE for the components. The FE and ΔP increased monotonically with the number of cloth layers for a lightweight flannel, suggesting that multilayered cloth masks may offer increased protection from nanometer-sized aerosol with a maximum FE dictated by breathability (i.e., ΔP).

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; aerosols; cloth masks; face masks; personal protection; respiratory protection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / chemistry
  • Betacoronavirus / pathogenicity
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Filtration
  • Humans
  • Masks / standards*
  • Masks / virology
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / virology
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Personal Protective Equipment / standards*
  • Personal Protective Equipment / virology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices / standards*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Textiles / adverse effects
  • Textiles / standards*
  • Textiles / virology


  • Aerosols