Because of the continuing pandemic, the mask and respirator market is still expanding, with what seems like unlimited options to choose from. There are so many options that it may seem overwhelming when searching for an effective face mask for you or your family. How do you know if you’re choosing the best face mask? There are some important factors to consider. One is whether or not the mask has a valve.
While masks with valves may seem like a more comfortable option because they make it easier to exhale, they actually do more harm than good when it comes to helping stop the spread of viruses like COVID-19 because they allow the potentially infectious germs and particles you breathe out to escape into the air around you. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually list face masks with breathing valves as masks everyone should avoid wearing. Airlines and airports also prohibit the use of these masks for the same reasons.
So how do you know if your mask has a valve? Valves appear as a round, plastic piece that sticks out from the front of the mask and when you breathe, you may feel your breath escaping from it. If your mask has one or more of these on it, you should replace it as soon as possible.
Valves Let Particles Escape
The reason why the CDC discourages the use of masks with valves and facilities like hospitals and airports actively prohibit them is simple: They let potentially harmful particles escape.
While certain face masks and respirators help to protect the wearer from hazards by filtering the air, the main purpose of wearing face masks is actually to protect others from you and your germs. This is because many viruses like COVID-19 can be asymptomatic while still being highly contagious, meaning someone infected with it can go out and spread it around without even knowing. Wearing a mask helps to catch and block the droplets in your breath that may be carrying viruses and germs, protecting those around you from your infection.
However, if your mask has a valve — or a one-way vent on the front that releases exhaled air — all of the germs in your breath are released into the air unfiltered, which risks spreading infection to everyone around you. And nobody wants to be the jerk that gets other people sick, right?
You may be wondering “so if face masks with breathing valves are so bad, why do they exist?” They are actually used as protection during industrial projects, like sanding and sweeping, that release small particles into the air. Workers wear these masks to filter out these particles, while still being able to breathe relatively easily. They aren’t made to help stop the spread of disease.
Masks with valves have never and will never be designated for medical use.
When searching for your next face mask to wear out and about during this time, make sure it’s free of pesky valves that do more harm than good when it comes to helping protect your community from infections.
Filters vs. Valves
When considering your next face mask purchase, you should be looking for a mask with a filter rather than a valve. While valves allow your exhaled breath to escape unfiltered, masks with filters block particles both ways — when you breathe in and when you breathe out. This ensures that both you and those around you are better protected from viruses, bacteria, and other harmful particles in the air.
We’ve equipped all of our best-selling Enro masks with an impressive, built-in PM0.1 filter effective at blocking particles as small as 0.1 microns. To put that size into perspective, pollen particles are generally larger than 10 microns in length, while bacteria generally range between 0.3 and 5 microns in length.
Wearing a mask is an act of kindness to your community. Make sure you’re actually doing your part with a face mask effective at protecting them from your germs.
Try Cloth Masks Instead
Instead of reaching for masks or disposable respirators with valves, choose a cloth face mask with no openings instead. Like masks with filters, a simple cloth face mask does a much better job of filtering the particles in your breath than one with a valve.
With three engineered layers, Enro reusable cloth face masks are a more effective option when it comes to protecting you and your community. Made with the lightest possible fabrics, they’re ultra-breathable, giving you the comfort you’re looking for without the use of a valve.
Plus, each of our masks is also finished with SILVADUR™ antimicrobial treatment that inhibits bacterial growth, offering even more protection between washings.
Ditch Your Valve Masks for Enro Masks
During this time, masks are an essential tool to help slow the spread of viruses in your community. Do your part by wearing one that protects the most vulnerable people around you, and by avoiding ineffective options like face masks with breathing valves.
And if you have masks with valves, it’s not too late to ditch them for something much better for everyone, like our best-selling Enro reusable mask that features lightweight, breathable fabrics and a built-in PM0.1 filter. Go ahead and upgrade, your community will thank you.