On the durability of surgical masks after simulated handling and wear

Vincent Varanges, Baris Caglar, Yann Lebaupin, Till Batt, Weidong He, Jing Wang, René M. Rossi, Gilles Richner, Jean Romain Delaloye, Véronique Michaud*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


After the spread of COVID-19, surgical masks became highly recommended to the public. They tend to be handled and used multiple times, which may impact their performance. To evaluate this risk, surgical masks of Type IIR were submitted to four simulated treatments: folding, ageing with artificial saliva or sweat and washing cycles. The air permeability, mechanical integrity, electrostatic potential, and filtration efficiency (FE) of the masks were measured to quantify possible degradation. Overall, air permeability and mechanical integrity were not affected, except after washing, which slightly degraded the filtering layers. Electrostatic potential and FE showed a strong correlation, highlighting the role of electrostatic charges on small particle filtration. A slight decrease in FE for 100 nm particles was found, from 74.4% for the reference masks to 70.6% for the mask treated in saliva for 8 h. A strong effect was observed for washed masks, resulting in FE of 46.9% (± 9.5%), comparable to that of a control group with no electrostatic charges. A dry store and reuse strategy could thus be envisaged for the public if safety in terms of viral and bacterial charge is ensured, whereas washing strongly impacts FE and is not recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4938
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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