I often get asked questions about double masks: “Is wearing two masks better than one?” and “Does doubling mask layers increase effectiveness?” It would make sense that the more layers you wear, the safer you are, right?
Even director of the NIH Dr. Anthony Fauci has said it seems like common sense that wearing two masks is better than one. Let’s see what the data says about this!
Test: Does Doubling Masks Increase Effectiveness?
Wearing double masks might have a smaller impact on its effectiveness than you’d think.
Scientists tested double-layered versions of DIY mask materials including a dish towel, pillow case, and 100% cotton shirt fabrics. The effectiveness of these masks against bacteria-size particles were tested both in a single and double layer.
Overall, doubling up the mask materials did not help much. The towel had the largest increase in effectiveness with a 14% increase, but the other cotton t-shirt and pillowcase only saw a 1-2% improvement.
Wearing Two Masks Reduces Breathability
One negative to doubling up and wearing two masks is it could make it feel harder to breathe. While wearing double masks modestly improves effectiveness, research shows it also decreases breathability.
As you can see, doubling up the masks into two-layers decreases breathability considerably. With two-layers, the dish towel mask was over twice as unbreathable as a surgical mask.