A guide to disposable face masks

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus there has been a lot of conversation around face masks; whether or not they should be worn by the general public, when and where they should be worn, and if they really do help contain the spread of the virus. With such a variety of face masks now available in the market often it can be hard to distinguish one type from another, with that in mind we have created a simple guide to disposable face masks outlining the various types and the level of protection they provide. 

Safety Face Masks

There are three levels of mask types within the safety category, and when fitted correctly, they offer protection of the respiratory system of the wearer. In use, the purpose and function of an FFP respirator mask is to prevent the wearer from inhaling aerosols, vapours, and gasses, as well as fine dust particles. The three levels are as follows: 

FFP1: FFP stands for “Filtering Face Piece” FFP1 masks are not recommended for use against Coronavirus. 

FFP2: Have a minimum of 94% filtration and are mainly used in construction and agriculture, as well as in healthcare settings against influenza viruses. 


An FFP2 face mask is a particle respirator only and does not protect against fluids. FFP2 filters out 95% of airborne particles and although the filter is not as strong as that of the FFP3, it is still highly rated for use by medical staff and is backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as suitable for medical use. 

FFP3: Have a minimum of 99% filtration and protect against very fine particles such as asbestos and give the highest level of protection against virus and bacterial infections, while FFP2 is the level below. 


FFP3 face masks are recommended for us by doctors and nurses when treating patients with the Coronavirus as they offer the most protection against viruses in the air. 


The mask must fit tightly to the face and have all the air drawn through a filter that is embedded in the fabric which catches almost every kind of particle as the air flows through. 

Medical Face Masks

Medical face masks are designed for use within a healthcare setting and are resistant to the expulsion of fluids, droplets, and particles. There are three levels:

Type I / Type II: Do not have resistance to fluids and are not suitable for use in a healthcare setting. 


Type IIR: Do have resistance to fluids and droplets and are suitable for use in a healthcare setting. Type IIR face masks are designed to limit the expulsion of fluids, droplets, and particles by the wearer from reaching the patient or work environment. 


Type IIR masks do not offer any respirator protection to the wearer for incoming fluids, droplets, or particles. 

Surgical Face Masks

Disposable surgical masks are considered effective enough for most staff outside of intensive care or who are not inserting or removing breathing equipment. 


Disposable surgical masks have an inner layer of cotton fabric, a middle layer of medical filter paper and an outer layer of waterproof fabric. 


Although they do not have a built-in air filter, disposable surgical face masks can stop droplets of liquids being transmitted which is how most viruses and bacteria spread. 

For more information on our range of face masks or to speak to a Bunzl Irish Merchants representative, please contact us

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