What is 3ply mask and how many types exist in the market?

Wearing a mask has become a basic necessity for all, and also a crucial step in checking the spread of COVID-19 virus. 3 ply masks or the disposable protective face masks are not only affordable but also an apt method of protection against COVID-19 virus. With the outbreak of the pandemic, you just can’t move out without a mask. The 3 ply masks have gained much popularity among the community because of its hygiene levels and affordability.


What is a 3ply mask made up of?

It is a three layered mask that is made up of polypropylene (PP) polymer, which is referred to as non-woven fabric. The other materials used include polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, or polyester. The mask making is done though the spunbond process and meltdown technology. The final product is a fiber that is less than a micron in diameter.


Layers in details:

Layer 1

Layer 2

Layer 3

Fluid resistant layer

Filter layer

Absorbent layer

Prevents penetration of body fluids into the mask.

It filters out pathogens or particles.

It traps any entered body fluid.

It is made up of polyester or a polyester blend.

It is made up of non-woven fabric (PP).

It is made up of cotton.



Kinds of masks available in the market


Primary Intent


These are basically the pollution masks that protect the individual from inhaling pollutants present in the air. This filters smaller particles.

Medical surgical masks

These are water resistant and prevent spreading of infection in operation theaters.

Barrier face covering

It offers protection against sub-micron particulates.



Types of 3ply masks:

  1. 3 ply Type I surgical mask: It has a BFE level > 95%. It is non-splash resistant.
  2. Type II surgical mask: BFE >98%.
  3. Type IIR surgical face mask: BFE >98% and it is splash resistant.
  4. Non-medical 3 ply surgical face mask: BFE<90%.


How is the safety level tested?

There are 5 primary safety tests performed to gauge the efficiency of the mask.

  1. BFE or Bacterial Filtration Efficiency: 28.3 L of aerosol with Staphylocuccus aureus is spray onto the mask per minute. The percentage of bacteria being caught by the mask is measured.
  2. PFE or Particle Filtration Efficiency (otherwise known as latex particle challenge): The aerosol that is sprayed onto the mask includes polystyrene microspheres.
  3. Breathing resistance: Whether the mask can be worn for long or not, a breathing test is done by blowing air at it. A difference in air pressure is created on both sides of the mask. This difference is measured to know the rate of breathability.
  4. Splash resistance: In this case, simulated blood is splashed at it which has the same pressure as the human blood pressure.
  5. Flammability: ASTM levels are assigned based on the level of flame resistance that is level 1, 2, and 3. The masks are set on fire to measure the level up to which they can survive the flame.


Benefits of 3 ply masks?

  • It can be worn by adults as well as children.
  • It provides three layered protection against viruses, water droplets, bacteria and other microbes, allergens, pollutants, aerosol particles, etc.
  • The 3 ply masks have a flexible ear loop and a nose strip for comfortable wear.
  • BFE is about 95%
  • This can be worn at grocery shops, public areas, offices, pharmacy, medical use, etc.
  • These are hydrophobic.
  • Face seal fit is tight fitting.

Though there is no mask that can claim 100% protection against COVID-19 virus or other infections, the 3-ply masks, when worn properly can offer a protection of nearly 95% against the recent pandemic.