What is a fabric mask?

A fabric mask, also known as community mask, is a loose-fitting reusable mask made of cotton or other textiles. It is often homemade and not considered as medical device/ PPE, providing lower protection against diseases in comparison to medical mask and respirators due to minimal design. It covers wearer’s nose and mouth with fabric to prevent transmission of large particles.

The effectiveness of fabric mask largely depends on the fabrics use and its construction, such as the number of fabric’s layer, how well the mask fits.

Unlike medical mask and respirator, there is no official regulation on fabric masks. Instead, voluntary standards are established by recognized bodies for measurement of fabric mask performance and quality.

Regulatory compliance in different markets

Market-Specific Regulatory Compliance

CountryType of SpecificationRegional Regulation / Standard/GuidelinesBarrier PerformanceTest MethodRequirement
BelgiumNational Standard NBN/DTD S 65-001:2020PFE EN 13274-7:2019 ≥ 70%
BFE  EN 14683:2019+AC:2019 Annex B  ≥ 70% 
China  Association standard  T/CSTM 00387-2020  PFE  GB/T 38413-2019  PM 2.5 daily reusable protective mask 
As received: ≥ 95% 
After care: ≥ 90% 
General daily reusable protective mask: 
As received: ≥ 90% 
After care: ≥ 85% 
EU countries  Reference document from the CEN Members  CEN Workshop Agreement CWA 17553  PFE  EN 13274-7:2019  Particles size: 3 microns 
Level 90%: min 90% 
Level 70%: min 70% 
France  Regulation  French Cross Ministries Note (NOTE d’INFORMATION du 29 mars 2020 Mise a jour le 26 avril) Mandatory requirement in France  PFE  Dissolved gas analysis (DGA) method Annex 2 or equivalent  Particles size: 3 microns: 
> 90% for UNS Class I 
> 70% for UNS Class II 
Guidelines  AFNOR Spec S76-001 v1.1  PFE  DGA method Annex 2 or equivalent  3 microns particles: 
> 90% for UNS Class I 
> 70% for UNS Class II 
Germany  Recommendation  BfArM recommendations  Attention on marking and labeling issue 
Ireland  National standard  SWiFT 19:2020  BFE  EN 14683:2019+AC:2019 Annex B  ≥ 70% 
Portugal  Portugal specifications  Masks intended for use under COVID-19 technical specifications 1  PFE  EN 13274-7:2019  Level 2: ≥ 90% 
Level 3: ≥ 70% 
BFE  EN 14683:2019+AC:2019 Annex B  Level 2: ≥ 90% 
Level 3: ≥ 70% 
South Africa  Recommendation   Recommended Guidelines   PFE  EN 13274-7:2019   Particle size: 5 microns 
≥ 75% 
Spain  National standard  UNE 0065  BFE  EN 14683:2019 + AC: 2019 Clause B  ≥ 90% 
Switzerland  Recommendation by task force  Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force  PFE  Particle size: 1μm  ≥ 70% 
United Kingdom  Recommendation  BSI guide to masks and face coverings for use in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic  PFE  EN 13274-7:2019  Requirement to be determined by the Cabinet Office/Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) 
United States  National Standard  ASTM F3502  PFE  Sub-micron PFE method. Contained within specification  Level 1: ≥ 20% 
Level 2: ≥ 50% 
Recommendation   AATCC M14   PFE  Particle size: 3 μm    ≥ 70%  
Canada   Recommendation by industry  General Purpose Woven Face Coverings – Guidance and Considerations  *Not Applicable  ASTM F2299 or technical equivalent, with modified micron size  3 micron particles >= 70% filtration efficiency as minimal 

Key testing parameters

While there are many testing parameters for measuring the quality and performance attributes of community masks, below are key testing parameters to take note of:

Test ParameterTest ObjectiveSuggested Measurement/ Method
Harness  How well does the strap or harness of the mask stay secured and fit  Put on and remove the mask for 5 times, repeat head morphologies for 3 times 
Skin Contact  Ensuring the materials used are not harmful or will cause irritation to wearers  No detailed chemical requirement defined. Required to follow key REACH restrictions on chemical and pH level for skin contact materials 
Particle Performance    Resistance of mask against particle of a size of 3 (± 0,5) μm  EN 13274-7 is widely used. It requires ≥90% filtration for masks used in high content situations and >70% for masks used in other general public environment* 
Breathing Resistance  Easiness of the wearer to breath comfortably in the mask  2 recommended methods: EN 14683 Annex C to reach maximum value of 60KPa, or ISO 9237 to perform air permeability test  
Cleaning and Drying  Ensuring the mask can endure washing and drying, and meets performance requirements after multiple washes  Wash the mask for at least 5 times at a temperature of 60°C 

*Other methods are available and can be founded in Annex B of EN 13274-7

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