Surgical Mask: Features, Quality Verification, Variations and Applications

A surgical mask (3 ply surgical mask) is a type of loose-fitting, disposable mask that acts as a barrier between the face and the environment.  It is mainly suitable for protection against dust and micro-organisms, except viruses.  It is one of the most popular masks besides the clothes mask,  KN95 mask, N95 mask, etc.

Layers of Surgical Mask

  • The Outer Layer: Outer layer consists of non-woven plastic such as polypropylene, polyester, polyethylene, polycarbonate, polystyrene, etc. This layer is hydrophobic in nature, which will prevent water to enter the mask. It is mostly available in green or blue color. 

  • The Middle Layer: Middle layer consists of a melt-blown filter that adheres the micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses via electrostatic property.

  • The Inner Layer: Inner layer is similar to the outer layer. However, it is hydrophilic in nature. When a person sneezes or coughs, the inner layer of the mask absorbs the fluid particles.    

Correct way to wear surgical mask

(Proper way to wear surgical mask)

  • Don’t wear the mask inside out. Else, dust and dirt will stick to the adhesive layer of the mask.
  • Hold the ear loops of the mask. Then put it on by adjusting it to the ear pinnae. After that, adjust the nose and chin portion of the face mask.
  • If the surgical mask consists of a nose pin, then bend it around the nose. It will help to fix the mask around the face. Also, it will reduce the inhalation of unfiltered atmospheric air. 
  • During this process, make sure that you do not touch the middle layer of the mask. Else, it can be contaminated. 
  • Follow the reverse process while removing the mask. Do not take your palms towards your mouth, eyes, and nostrils.
  • I have seen many people pulling the masks from their faces to their chin area. Also, many people take out their masks and hold them inside their hands.  Please do not follow these kinds of habits.
  • If you are in a clean and open environment, it is better not to wear a mask. Taking a deep breath of fresh air is good for your health.
  • Once you remove it from your face, dispose of it in a dust-bin.

How to test surgical mask quality?

Not all the masks are surgical masks. Some of these masks do not have all three layers. They can either be single or double-layer masks. Also, the available 3 ply masks may not be of good quality. Thus, here are a few ways to check the quality of the masks.

  • Visual Test:- By the process of palpation and visualization of the mask, one can identify if it has got three layers or not. You can also tear apart the mask to check the quality of an inner layer.
  • Water Test:- Take a mask on a table. Drop few drops of water on the outer and inner layer respectively. The outer layer should not absorb water. However, the inner layer should absorb it.
  • Breathing Test:- Wear the mask that you are going to test. Burn a lighter and place it in front of you. Now, try to blow out the flame. If the flame goes off, know that mask is not good to wear.
  • Flame Test:- Take a lighter and try to burn the inner layer. Since the melt-blown filter is inflammable, it should not catch fire.

Packaging of Surgical Mask

In the context of Nepal, you can now find 50 pieces of surgical masks in a box or plastic. Before making a decision, you need to consider the following things.

In Plastic In Box
Might contaminate May not contaminate
Cheaper Quite expensive
Not good for storing for a long period of time. Good for storing for a longer period of time
Suitable for common people Suitable for bigger organizations such as hospitals.

Besides these, I have also noticed ear loops of surgical masks attached with the help of a glue gun instead of a punch machine. These are cheaper than the punched ones but can detach from the masks easily.  


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