General

What about other mask models offered on the Internet?

Other models of mask are available on the Internet. You should be wary of models prevalent on the Internet containing one or more vertical seams down the nose, mouth and chin areas. This solution was not chosen by the experts when writing the AFNOR Spec (risk of leakage via the seam). We recommend two models of masks for which the patterns are provided in Annex C of the AFNOR Spec (2nd document).

Can I make masks for children?

The last version of document AFNOR Spec – Barrier Masks (not available in English right now) also offers patterns for making masks for children over 7 years of age. This age threshold was determined based on recommendations by the doctors convened by AFNOR in the framework of the collective work carried out by around 150 experts.

Approval, certification, testing of masks: how does this work?

Organizations making fabric masks can rely on the document AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks to launch manufacture. This document also offers a test protocol, currently used by the DGA (French Directorate General of Armaments) and the IFTH (French Textile & Apparel Institute). In France, manufacturers send their masks to these two bodies for tests to be carried out on their masks and to have it confirmed that their masks offer the required level of protection. AFNOR does not itself offer approval or testing and is currently not offering certification for this product.

Who might wear a “barrier mask”?

The “barrier mask” device is intended to complement protective measures and social distancing rules. It is intended for the general public and in particular any healthy or asymptomatic person. The barrier mask in no way exonerates the user from routine application of the protective measures, which are essential, and of the social distancing rules intended to fight viral infections. This device is not intended to be used by health workers in contact with patients. FFP2 type filtering masks and masks for medical (or surgical) use are intended to be used by and reserved for health workers.

Do the barrier masks offer the same protection as FFP2 masks/surgical masks?

No, they are different masks. An FFP mask is a protective respiratory device (standard NF EN 149). It is intended to protect the wearer against inhalation of droplets and particles suspended in the air that could contain infectious agents. Wearing this type of mask is more restrictive (thermal discomfort, breathing resistance) than a surgical mask.

There are three categories of FFP masks classed according to their effectiveness (estimated based on the effectiveness of the filter and leakage around the face). These are:

  • FFP1 masks filtering at least 80% of aerosols (total inward leakage < 22%).
  • FFP2 masks filtering at least 94% of aerosols (total inward leakage < 8%).
  • FFP3 masks filtering at least 99% of aerosols (total inward leakage < 2%).

A surgical mask is a medical device (standard NF EN 14683). It is intended to prevent the outward projection of droplets produced by the person wearing the mask. It also protects the wearer against the projection of droplets produced by another person. On the other hand, it does not protect against inhalation of very small particles suspended in the air. There are three mask types:

  • Type I: bacterial filtration efficiency > 95%.
  • Type II: bacterial filtration efficiency > 98%.
  • Type IIR: bacterial filtration efficiency > 98% and splash-resistant.

Barrier masks do not have the same performance as FFP2s. Organizations will have to assess whether these substitutes are appropriate to the risks incurred at workstations. People must adjust these masks over the nose and under the chin and comply with the same hygiene measures as for other masks.

document availability

I made masks based on the AFNOR document dated 27 March. Are they still valid as from the update on 28 April?

Yes, the updated version of AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks (not available in English right now) does not call into question anything in the original. Masks made based on the recommendations published on 27 March are therefore still valid.

Why was the document AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks updated?

Several official publications have been brought to the attention of the drafting group since publication of version 1.0 of AFNOR SPEC S76-001 dated 27 March 2020. There has also been a lot of feedback. The update takes account of this but the main recommendations of the document and the pattern models given in version 1.0 are not called into question.

What changes should be taken into account in order to make or manufacture barrier masks?

Version 1.10 of the document AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks does not contain any major changes. The main new feature is inclusion of a pattern model for barrier masks intended for children over 7 years of age. References to the opinions of French health authorities are also specified, with direct links. Industrial manufacturers who make barrier masks on a large scale will be able to follow new recommendations for determining the filtration efficiency relative to the 3-micron threshold. Details on the filtration efficiency requirements of the material used have also been added.

Will I be informed when a new version of AFNOR SPEC S76-001 is published?

Yes, by email, provided that you have agreed to communicate your data as detailed above.

I’m not sure about the idea of communicating my personal data

Our downloadable form is GDPR compliant. The benefit of leaving your contact details in order to download AFNOR Spec S76-001 is that you can be kept informed of any changes to the document, the original version of 27 March being version 1.0. You can also ask AFNOR to delete your personal data.

Has the AFNOR Spec document been converted into a European document ?

Yes: since June the 17th, 2020, the European Committee for Standardization, after the urgent request from the European Commission, has developed a new CEN Workshop Agreement on community face coverings, which is made available for download. The new CWA 17553:2020 ‘Community face coverings – Guide to minimum requirements, methods of testing and use’ provides the minimum requirements for the design, production and performance assessment of community face coverings (barrier masks) intended for consumers, single or reusable. CEN has developed this CWA with a fast-track approach under the stewardship of AFNOR.

Materials/tests/performance

Which fabrics should be used to make a barrier mask?

The AFNOR Spec document recommends some types of fabric. They are derived from tests conducted by the IFTH (French Textile & Apparel Institute), accessible here (in French).

How do you know if the barrier mask is effective? The flame test?

The flame test in which you blow through the mask gives no indication of the mask’s filtration efficiency. It does, however, give an idea of its air-tightness and therefore of its breathability. If the flame does not move at all, wearing the mask is likely to be difficult to endure in everyday life situations. If you feel uncomfortable wearing a mask when you are still and quiet, it will certainly be unsuitable for sustained walking or talking to others, for example. You are then exposed to the risk of having to suddenly remove it without being able to wash your hands immediately after. Don’t forget that a barrier mask is not intended to provide a level of protection similar to an FFP2 mask. It is intended for the general public, in work situations (excluding medical workers) and in addition to social distancing and good hygiene practices.

Can I incorporate a nose bridge in my mask? How do I do it and what material should I use?

This question has been asked several times. It has been raised with our experts. You should be vigilant about several points: the nose bridge must be supported so that there is no risk of contact with the wearer. The material must withstand the wash cycle (cotton cycle at 60°C). We have submitted this problem to our experts and hope to be able to give you more clarification on the website and in an amended version of the AFNOR Spec.

Can I use a vacuum cleaner bag or coffee filter as a filtering material?

Despite their good filtering capacity, these filter types do not meet the requirement of section 5.1.8 “Harmlessness of inhaled air”. This is because these materials are likely to release irritant substances into the inhaled air that can give rise to allergy risk (in particular serious asthma attacks) and/or toxicity. In addition, these filter types do not give good results in terms of breathability. This idea perhaps does not enable production of a washable mask due to the envisaged materials.

The filtration level in the AFNOR Spec mentions tests with particle sizes up to 3 µm, which is larger than the size of the Covid-19 virus. So is the mask really effective?

The virus is carried in micro-droplets of a size much larger than the virus itself. This is why the mask offers good droplet/particle retention.

Use

How many masks should I wear per day?

The AFNOR document recommends using a barrier mask for a maximum period of 4 hours. Therefore a person who works outside of his/her home may anticipate having 3 per day: 1 for the morning, 1 for the afternoon and possibly 1 as a backup. Note: don’t forget to wash your hands or use a hydroalcoholic solution before putting a mask on and after removing it.

How many times can I use/wash my homemade barrier mask?

The AFNOR Spec document establishes the criterion that a barrier mask must at least be able to withstand being washed and dried 5 times. According to our experts, this is a realistic threshold for a mask made from non-professional fabrics acquired from various sources. The fabric aside, the assembly itself can show signs of weakness more quickly. A hand-sewn mask for example would, by its very nature, be less robust than a machine-sewn mask. For general public masks manufactured by industrial textile manufacturers, the wash thresholds are higher: 10, 20, 30 washes or more may be claimed. In all cases, every fabric mask must be inspected after each wash, before being reused.

How should I wash a used barrier mask?

The document AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks gives the recommendations specified by the health authorities. A notice by ANSM (French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety) revised on 21 April, 2020, states that a used mask must be machine washed using a standard washing product at 60 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Masks should be dried either using a dryer, or in the fresh air, and then steam ironed at a temperature that will not damage the fabric.

Must I disinfect my washing machine before washing barrier masks?

This is an additional recommendation: you need to run the washing machine empty if, during a previous cycle, you accidentally put a used mask in the washing machine with other clothing and washed at a temperature below 60°C. If you wash all your masks according to health authority recommendations (60°C for at least 30 minutes), you don’t need to run the machine empty beforehand.

Can I wash used barrier masks with other clothing? Should I wash the masks immediately after use?

Yes, you can for example wash your used masks at the same time as sheets or towels that are often washable at 60°C. It is important that the mechanical aspect of the washing process is preserved. You can store used masks in a special container (a clean, resealable plastic bag) as specified in the AFNOR Spec document, and then wash them all together.

Can you boil the masks to clean them?

Boiling your barrier mask to clean it can damage fabrics. This practice is not recommended. It is preferable to machine wash at 60 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Can I use an iron or steam iron on my mask?

Yes for care of your mask, to remove any wrinkles after washing. Special care should be taken to avoid damaging the mask’s components, in particular the head harness. But please note that ironing cannot in any circumstance replace the machine washing (cotton cycle at 60°C) necessary after each use.

Can I use a hair dryer on my mask?

Yes, to dry the mask more quickly. But please note that use of a hair dryer cannot in any circumstance replace the machine washing (cotton cycle at 60°C) necessary after each use.