Non-respirator masks

Is there any consensus around the best masks options if you can’t get access to respirators? Ideally in stock within about 6 weeks (when school would begin…)

I see lots of rankings based on comfort/style, but not as much analysis around “this is actually going to do a good job filtering out particles”

EDIT: oh hey, looks like the GoRuck masks are back in stock. Maskit also looks promising.


  • Comments (9)

    • 14

      This article describes testing for effectiveness of masks from different materials.  There are links to the article that I first read where designers are testing the masks they make and I are also selling (second link):



    • 5

      If you don’t have access to a NIOSH-rated respirator, your best option to protect both yourself and others may be a simple cloth mask + plastic faceshield (assuming you don’t mind going out in public wearing a faceshield).

      In non-healthcare settings, this combo may even be more protective than wearing an N95 FFR alone.

      • 3

        “In non-healthcare settings, this combo may even be more protective than wearing an N95 FFR alone.”

        Interesting. Any sources you can point to? (I see you’re a doctor, just want to learn more)

      • 6

        Sort of… This JAMA article does a good job describing the advantages of face shields: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2765525

        But the exact question of simple mask + faceshield compared head-to-head with N95 alone, I don’t know if anyone has a definitive answer.

        Ideally, it would be moot because everyone would have access to N95s and faceshields. When caring for COVID patients, I wear N95 + safety glasses + faceshield.

        When I wrote “non-healthcare settings” I was assuming a setting in which the main risks are droplet and contact (both of which a faceshield does a great job blocking) and that there are not a lot of aerosols being generated. A primary advantage of N95 compared to simple mask is aerosol protection. But the N95 depends on a tight seal to provide that protection. Many of the N95s worn out in public are non-fit-tested, and — given the shortage of N95s — also from a subprime manufacturer (e.g. not 3M). In my experience, these masks don’t make a very good seal.

      • 6

        Stupid question – how are aerosol’s generated? Does a sneeze/cough just generate droplets, not aerosols? Is it just like intubation and flushing toilets that aerosolize particles?

      • 3

        I was wondering about this too. I’m used to thinking of aerosol like hairspray and I know that doesn’t apply here 😂 

        I’d like to be a little smarter about what counts as aerosol since it seems so important to virus spreading.

      • 10

        This is a very good question that is not so straightforward to answer. A recent article in The Atlantic does a good job:


      • 5

        Thank you! Reading now…

    • 2

      I always wear a face mask with the face shield, or face mask plus goggles if the shield is not convenient, like when I had to go to the dentist. This report was posted recently, something to consider when using shields. https://www.insider.com/face-shields-did-not-protect-people-from-coronavirus-swiss-outbreak-2020-7