Duke researchers tested them to find out.
According to the researchers, “the focus of the study was to develop a simple technique for mask testing that people could duplicate and set up themselves.”
However, research findings indicate that the most protective masks are fitted N95 masks, which had the fewest droplets (almost zero according to the results). These are often used in the highest-risk settings, such as healthcare. Surgical masks are a close second to N95s for protection.
Other protective masks are those made from polypropylene and double-layer cotton masks. Less effective are bandanas which let about 50% of particulates through.
And the worst performer was the gaiter, which have become quite popular. The popularity is surprising since none of the gaiters that we see advertised mention viral protection. Instead the gaiters are marketed for weather and outdoor pollutants.
The researchers noted that gaiters are worn around the neck and pulled up to cover the person’s mouth and nose. “The one the Duke team tested actually made things worse. Rather than preventing the droplets from escaping, it turned the larger droplets into a cloud of smaller ones that hung in the air longer”.