Fabric Masks vs Disposable Masks: Why do disposable masks win?

In this day and age, masks are essential in the UK when out and about during COVID-19. So that poses the question, which masks are the best at keeping out bacteria?

The two types of masks that are most commonly worn are fabric masks and disposable masks. Both masks vary in ability to fend off bacteria and how much affect cleaning products have on them.

Fabric masks prove to be less affected by cleaning products, as bacteria tends to cling to fabric more than on disposable masks. Therefore, disposable masks, although you will get through more of them, could be considered as a better option as rather than washing them, you throw them away and use a completely fresh, new mask.

A test was performed by Morning Live, a BBC One breakfast TV show, where they compared how affective different detergents were in attacking the virus or bacteria that had been collected over an hour of it being worn. It appeared that just 1 hour of wear time was enough to collect a large amount of bacteria on a fabric mask.

The 3 masks were washed at 30˚C, 40˚C and 60˚C degrees with bio and non-bio detergents. The results showed that non-bio detergents were a lot more effective in eliminating bacteria than bio washed masks:














According to microbiologist Melody Greenwood, the non-bio detergent contains antibacterial agents that are very effective against bacteria, thus explaining why the non-bio detergent trumped the bio detergent. Greenwood also pointed out however that these masks were cleaned on their own.

This is significant as normally, fabric masks are put in a wash with other items of clothing. Therefore, the detergents are going to have a lesser effect in a normal wash that includes masks. Greenwood suggested the most effective way to wash your fabric mask is to hand-wash it using non-bio detergents.

This also brings up the question- are fabric masks worth the hassle? With a disposable mask, you don’t have to worry about washing the mask as you simply discard the mask after use. Additionally, disposable masks collect fewer bacteria as fabric in general collects more amounts of bacteria.

In conclusion, this test carried out by Morning Live on BBC One has proved that disposable masks are in fact the better option when it comes to cleaning your mask and preventing bacteria build-up.