different types of protective face mask against blue background

Understanding The Differences: 3-Ply Disposable Protective Masks vs KN95 vs Cloth Masks

Since December 2019, COVID-19 has claimed thousands of lives. Moreover, the third wave seems deadlier than the first two waves. 

Preventive measures such as hand sanitizing, social distancing, maintaining proper hygiene, and facial coverings have been adopted in preventing the deadly virus.

Wearing a protective facemask has been popular among people, especially in public places. They have proven to be effective in curtailing the widespread of COVID-19. However, the level of protectiveness of these masks is greatly dependent on the type of mask people use.

In this post, you can learn more about the different types of facemasks, how they offer protection, as well as their differences.


1. 3-Ply Disposable Protective Masks

Also known as surgical masks, 3-ply disposable protective masks are designed to provide 3-layer protection (Level I, Level II, or Level III) against viruses, allergens, bacteria, airborne pollutants, and other bodily fluids or large droplets.

  • Level I: Ideal for general use.
  • Level II: Also known as a Dental Mask, which offers an extra level of protection from liquid splatter.
  • Level III: Provides maximum protection from liquid exposure.


When properly worn, 3-ply disposable protective masks offer over 75% virus filtration efficiency which makes them a great option for daily use for adults and children.

Experts recommend using the 3-ply disposable protective masks for daily errands such as trips to the post office, grocery store, pharmacy, or in crowded public areas. 3-ply disposable protective masks are widely available.

What to look for?

  • A description indicating multiple layers of non-woven material
  • Nose wire

Latest update: CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends double masking for a higher protection level. Double masking refers to wearing a 3-ply disposable protective mask on the inside and a cloth mask on the outside.


2. KN95

The KN95 mask is designed and tested to ensure flawless performance at a consistent level to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These masks offer 5 layers of superior protection and are labelled to tell you what standard they meet.

KN95 masks are European FFP2 certified, and like the US standard N95 face masks, they protect against 95% of large and small airborne particles including bacteria, viruses, aerosols, and large fluid droplets.

They are also effective for protecting PM10, PM2.5, pollen, and other animal allergens as they provide a tighter fit around the face and nose. Like the 3-ply disposable protective mask, the KN95 face mask is ideal to be worn for everyday errands or in public areas where people are concentrated.

What to look for?

  • Meets ASTM F3502
  • Meets workplace performance


3. Cloth Masks

As the name implies, cloth masks are made from a variety of fabrics in different patterns and colours to match every wearer’s unique style. Cloth masks have become more of a fashion item than a pandemic protector.

One unique advantage of cloth masks over 3-ply disposable protective masks and KN95 is that they can be worn multiple times since they are washable.

However, when it comes to preventing the spread of disease, cloth masks are not as effective as the KN95 or the 3-ply disposable protective masks. In fact, many cloth masks that are popular among users are not designed to protect against viruses and bacteria.

However, the use of a cloth mask is necessary when it comes to double masking (a cloth mask to be worn on the outside and a 3-ply disposable protective mask to be worn on the inside).

What to look for?

  • Nose wire
  • Multiple layers of tightly woven
  • Breathable fabrics should be used
  • Mask should block light when held up to a bright light source


3-Ply Disposable Protective Masks vs KN95 vs Cloth Masks






Has a moderate level of filtration – has a medium-high density filter layer

Filters out at least 95% of small and large airborne particles – offers a high level of filtration

Provides a very low level of filtration

Intended use/purpose

Protects the wearer from large droplets, bodily fluids, and other wearers’ respiratory emissions

Effective in reducing the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles such as large fluid droplets and aerosols

Not resistant to fluid but can help to protect others from an infected person

Use limitations

Disposable after each use

Disposable after each use

Not ideal for kids below 2 years. Must be washed thoroughly before and after each use.

Face seal fit

Loose fit

Tightly fit

Loose fit


Leakages occur only around mask edges whenever the user breathes in

Minimal leakages occur around mask edges when properly worn

Cloth is susceptible to leakages throughout

Different Types of Masks with Efficiencies in Blocking Particles

Unknotted Surgical Mask

0 %
Particles Blocked

Cloth Face Mask

0 %
Particles Blocked

Double Mask

0 %
Particles Blocked


While face masks can prevent the spread of covid-19, experts recommend seeing a doctor if you notice common symptoms like cough, frequent sneezing, difficult breathing, and abdominal pain.

Double masking is a good way to reduce the chance of contracting COVID-19. Last but not least, avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth before thoroughly sanitizing your hands.