Genuine or Fake Surgical Masks — 3 Quick Tests to Find Out! [Updated]
With the Wuhan coronavirus on the loose, getting a proper mask for protection is important. However, with the shortage of masks, there are now many fake masks circulating around, which would not protect you.
A good quality surgical mask generally has a three-ply layer with the innermost layer used for absorbing moisture, the middle layer is a filter and outermost layer repels water.
I had compiled my experiences from various sources, including popular posts from doctors in China, Internet, etc. and summarised it into 3 simple tests, which I had also personally tested to share with you.
Unfortunately, all the tests are destructive, which means you need to sacrifice one mask to perform all these tests. To reduce wastage, you can do the test at the end of the day before you throw yours away.
1) Visual Test
If it is a 3-ply mask, logically, it would need to have 3 layers. Cut open the mask and you should see a very obvious 3-layers, as shown below. The 3 layers would typically consist of a Translucent piece (top), White piece (middle), and the coloured piece (Green, Blue, or even White).
If you don’t have those 3 layers, then it is not a 3-ply mask.
2) Water Test
Surgical masks, not only protect others from your cough and sneeze, they also provide protection against others’. Therefore, the outer layer is designed to be waterproof!
Fold your mask such that the outer side forms a funnel and pour some water into it. You should be able to see that the mask is holding up the water properly. Apart from that, touch the bottom of the funnel, make sure it is not wet or damp. The following video illustrates this test.
3) Fire Test
The middle layer is a filter, not a piece of paper. Therefore, if you were to light it with a flame, it WILL NOT catch fire! The following video illustrate the outcome of burning the middle layer, compared with burning a piece of tissue.
List of Doubtful Masks
The following are some list of doubtful masks as posted in Chinese Blog. I am just sharing it here for information only. It may or may not mean that they are not good; in fact, some are just indications that there are counterfeits for that brand. Anyway, to be doubly safe, always double check.
To be fair to this “Face Mask” brand, there seems to be both Genuine and Fake Surgical Masks. See:
http://sg.carousell.com/p/276326927 (Doing the Fire Test)
In summary, I really hate to write these. Firstly, I am not an authoritative person to do this, but I have to share my experience and knowledge with everyone since there is such an urgent need.
In fact, all these should have been undertaken by the respective countries’ Government; unfortunately, in the current chaotic situation, not only did they not supply their people with quality masks, they also did not provide any useful guidance. Therefore, this is just a small little stuff that I could contribute and I hope it is useful for everyone.
Last but not least, should you start wearing a mask now? Well, the best action is still to follow your Government’s direction, technically, they are the people who have the full visibility and who are in a better position to assess your local situation.
For example, I understand that in China, the advice is to put on a mask whenever you go out, without a mask, you would not be allowed into any malls. In Singapore, the advice is to wear a mask only if you are sick (as of 5th Feb 2020). Both advice are logical since in China, the risk is high and the core focus is on reducing any further spread of the virus; In Singapore, since the whole World has demand for masks, the idea is not to waste those unnecessarily, at least not for now.
Wish everyone good luck and all the best in this Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
This post is also available at: https://ximplifyit.blogspot.com/2020/02/genuine-or-fake-surgical-masks-3-quick-tests.html
[Updated On 22.05.2021]
Thanks to everyone for the views, follows, and the great comments. I am deeply honoured to be of help to all.
I had initially thought that a single post would be enough, unfortunately, this COVID-19 pandemic lasts much longer and is also much more severe than what everyone had initially thought. We are now seeing 2nd and 3rd waves around the World.
The most worrying trend is the new Indian-Variant, which also infected many healthcare workers who were fully vaccinated. Thus, I am totally appalled by US’ decision to allow fully vaccinated persons to go without masks. Similar worrying trend is also happening in UK, with the Government performing trials for mass events, at the backdrop of the new Indian Variant. Isn’t this asking for trouble?
Given the mountains of evidences around the World on how infectious the COVID-19 is, it is prudent to continue to put on masks whenever you leave home. For your information, I am also fully vaccinated but I will still be continuing to wear a mask whenever I go out, at the same time, avoiding mass gatherings and reducing the need to go out.
Yes, I understand that putting on masks could be uncomfortable, so in my next post, I will share with you some ideas to help you to mitigate the issues with wearing masks.
For now, there is one more feature that a good mask should have, i.e. the inner layer MUST absorb moisture. Imagine if you were to wear a mask for a prolong period of time, if the inner layer does not absorb the moisture from your breathe and face, it would be very uncomfortable!
BTW, “comfort” is not the only purpose, another important purpose of this feature is to reduce transmission of the virus from an infected person to others (the virus would be trapped by the absorbent inner layer).
Unfortunately, it is not easy to get a good mask that has such a feature. I have performed a water drip test on a number of masks, as shown below.
From the video above, only the GREEN mask (the 1st one being tested) provided this capability!
To illustrate this in more details, I have done the water drip test on both the outer layer and inner layer of another mask, so that you can fully appreciate what a good mask should be.
As mentioned, I will be writting another post on how to stay safe and comfortable when wearing a mask, so stay tuned and be safe!