Are Wet Masks Less Effective?

Does a wet mask still work? If your mask is slightly wet, how does this wetness and humidity affect it’s performance? Fortunately, scientists have tested the effectiveness of wet masks.

Researchers tested the performance of new and “wet” masks. They asked 22 people to wear either a DIY cloth mask, a surgical mask, or an N95 mask for three hours. They tested the masks at the start (new) and the participants wore them for three hours (and presumably added lots of condensation).

Mask Test

They ran fit tests, which measure how many particles are inside the mask versus outside the mask while a person is actually wearing the mask. Here’s me doing a fit test.

Mask test

Do masks become less effective after getting all wet and humid? The DIY mask actually became slightly more effective.

Wet Mask Effectiveness

Wetness and humidity had basically no effect on the surgical mask.

Wet Mask Effectiveness

Wetness and humidity might have decreased effectiveness for the N95 mask, but the difference was small and could be in the margin of error.

Wet Mask Effectiveness

One caveat is the tests were done on masks wet due to breathing condensation. A mask with exposure to much more moisture (such as rain) may have different results.

Read more: How long do N95 masks last?

Bottom Line

Moisture and condensation had very little impact on effectiveness for any of the masks. If anything, the cloth masks actually captured about 6% more virus-sized particles after 3 hours.

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Along with wearing masks, air purifiers with HEPA filters are also one of the best ways to stay safe from a variety of pollutants in our air including viruses and dangerous PM2.5. A recent CDC study confirmed significantly lower COVID-19 infection rates in schools that used HEPA air purifiers. HEPA filters can significantly lower the risk of a variety of deadly diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure.

Read More: Four Steps to Choosing the Best Air Purifier

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