Do You Need to Wear Two Masks?

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Double the masks, double the protection… maybe.

I can’t speak for everyone in the world, obviously, but personally, I’ve gotten pretty used to wearing a mask when I go out. I don’t really go anywhere besides the grocery store and the occasional dinner take-out, so I don’t spend a lot of time with a mask on, but when I gotta wear one, it’s not especially bothersome. Of course, used to it or not, I would still like to no longer have to wear this thing at some point, but to get there, we might have to knuckle down a little longer and really commit to it. Case in point, recently some health organizations have been advising double-masking. Can one extra mask really make a difference, though? Well, yes, if you do it right.

First of all, let’s just get this out of the way: you don’t need to double-mask unless you spend a lot of time out in densely populated areas. For public transit, crowded stores, metropolitan sidewalks and so forth, double-masking might be a good idea, but if you’re only passing one or two people daily out on a walk, one mask is fine.

Secondly, the main purpose of double-masking isn’t necessarily to improve your mask’s filtration. Adding another mask on top of an existing mask might help in a miniscule way, but if your first mask is already multi-ply, then you’ve got the barrier you need. Rather, the purpose of a second mask is to help properly secure the first mask to your face. You may notice sometimes when putting on your mask that there are two little openings on the sides. These openings can reduce your mask’s efficiency, but if you hold them down with another mask, or by tying the ear loops tighter, you can make it much safer.

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Finally, if you want to double-mask, make sure to put on a disposable surgical mask first, then a cloth mask on top of that. Don’t double up on the same type, and don’t put the cloth mask on first. This is to ensure proper breathing, proper protection, and proper securing. If you’re one of the rare few to have an N95 mask, don’t double-up, as you’ll block the filter.