What is a hygienic mask?

A hygienic mask, also known as “community face covering” or “medical mask” or “cosmetic mask”, is a face mask that looks very similar to the surgical mask. It is made of the same or similar materials and looks the same way.

The main difference is that it is not a medical device, and therefore subject to a different regulation. In Europe the CWA17553:2020 working document that was published in June 2020 regulates hygienic masks. It was adapted to EU countries’ norms soon after. Some countries, like Spain, have stricter standards than the CWA17553:2020 norm (see UNE 0064-1:2020 for single use masks for adults, UNE 0064-2:2020 for single use masks for kids, and UNE 0065:2020 for reusable masks).

In the EU the test method is the same for both surgical and hygienic masks, following the EN 14683:2019+AC:2019 standard, and performed by the same laboratories.

Filtration levels for hygienic masks are lower than the ones of surgical masks (70-90% BFE). The reason for that is the shortage of the Meltblown filter material used in Surgical masks, that in hygienic masks can be replaced by other nonwoven filtering materials. On the one hand, this makes hygienic masks cheaper and more accessible to the general public. On the other hand, this leaves the more expensive surgical masks to those people that need them urgently (infected people, health workers).

Several governments as well as the WHO have advised that healthy people wear hygienic masks, and leave the limited stocks of surgical masks to those who really need them.

Hygienic masks are intended to be used by healthy people, who are also able to follow a range of other safety precautions, like repeatedly washing hands, using sanitizer and keeping social distancing. Read more about how to protect yourself here.

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