Which Mask is Best for Me?

Which Mask is Best for Me?

With the circuit breaker (cb) measures, what precautions are you taking? Many are starting to put on face mask as an additional measure. Which face mask would be best you wonder? Get some ideas on the effectiveness of home-made mask or surgical mask durng this Covid-19 period, from the Health Sciences Authority, Singapore. You decide.

Guide to masks and respirators

 Consumer, Medical devices, General safety, Medical devices

Types of masks and respirators

Face mask (cloth or paper masks)

Surgical mask

N95 respirator

Surgical N95 respirator

Is it a medical device?






Prevents large particles expelled by you, the wearer, from reaching the environment.

Prevents large particles expelled by you, the wearer when you are ill, from reaching the environment.

To be used as a physical barrier to protect you from large droplets of blood or body fluids. 

Reduces your exposure to very small airborne particles or contaminants.

May not protect against sprays and direct liquid splashes.

Provides the protection of both a surgical mask and N95 respirator.

To be used as a physical barrier from large droplets of blood or body fluids as well as very small particles (e.g. fine aerosolised droplets), such as those produced by coughing.


Does not fit tightly

Does not fit tightly

Tight fit#

Tight fit#

Filtration efficiency

Does not fit tightly

Bacterial filtration efficiency above 95%*

Minimum 95%** against particulate aerosols (of 0.3 micron in size) free of oil 

Minimum 95%** against particulate aerosols (of 0.3 micron in size) free of oil.

Fluid resistance (i.e., resistance to penetration of bodily fluids)

Not fluid resistant


Not tested for fluid resistance

Tested to be fluid-resistant

* As recommended in European Standard for Surgical masks - Requirements and test methods (EN 14683:2005)
** As certified by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
# Proper fit of respirators is verified by respiratory fit testing as per Singapore Standard 548:2009: Code of Practice for Selection, Use and Maintenance of Respiratory Protective Devices.

Correct steps to wearing a mask or respirator

Follow these steps to ensure that the mask is put on and removed safely and correctly. 



Face or surgical mask



Surgical N95 respirator



Step 1



Wash your hands with soap and water.



Wash your hands with soap and water.



Step 2



Put on the mask to cover your nose and mouth, then stretch it gently over your chin.



Select a fit tested respirator.



Step 3



Press the thin metal wire along the upper edge gently against the bridge of your nose so that the mask fits nicely on your face.



Place the respirator over nose, mouth and chin.



Step 4



Do not remove your mask when you cough or sneeze.



Fit flexible nose piece over nose bridge.



Step 5



Change your mask when it becomes wet, soiled or damaged, or if you have difficulty breathing.



Secure on head with ties and/or elastic and adjust to fit.



Step 6



Wash your hands after removing your mask.



Perform a fit check by inhaling and exhaling. During inhalation, the respirator should collapse. During exhalation, check for leakage around face. There should be a good fit.



Step 7



See below for steps to disposal.



See below for steps to disposal.


You can also check out Health Hub for more tips on how to buy a mask that fits.

Simple rules for effective masks usage


  • Ensure that you use and wear an appropriate mask or respirator properly and consistently, according to its purpose as described on the instructions.
  • Practise proper removal of used and contaminated masks or respirators to prevent the spread of viruses to your hands, face and other contact surfaces. Touch only the straps and not the surface of the mask or respirator when removing it. You should wash your hands after disposal of a used mask or respirator.
  • Reduce the amount of talking when wearing a mask or respirator. These actions will lower the amount of condensation produced within the mask or respirator, and extend its effective life. To be effective, change masks or respirators if soiled or wet.


  • Do not reuse masks or respirators as they are contaminated once used.

Purchasing masks and respirators

When purchasing masks, avoid dubious or unknown websites or sellers, as the quality of their surgical masks and respirators is not assured.

Specifications of quality surgical masks and N95 respirators

Surgical mask

In contrast to a thin, single-layered or double-layered paper mask, a surgical mask usually consists of three layers of flat or pleated fabric.

Ideally, a surgical mask:

  • Has the manufacturer’s name printed on its packaging.
  • Has a particulate filtration efficiency of 80% or higher.
  • Carries an expiry date on its packaging.
  • Does not contain materials that you are allergic to.
  • Provides a good fit.

N95 respirator 

When purchasing a respirator, check that it is labelled with the NIOSH certificate number and is not expired.

If it is NIOSH-certified, it should:

  • Have a particulate filtration efficiency of 95%.
  • Provide a good fit to your face.
  • Carry instructions on how to wear and discard the respirator.

The respirator should not contain materials that can cause allergic reactions.

You may also check if the product is listed on NIOSH’s website as a NIOSH-certified N95 respirator.

Use of masks and respirators for children

Respirators are not designed to fit children. The faces of children may be too small for the respirators to fit properly and may not provide adequate protection. It may be better for children to wear a surgical mask if protection is needed.


(Adapted from HSA: https://www.hsa.gov.sg/consumer-safety/articles/guide-to-masks-and-respirators)

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