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

Can I wear a new face mask straight away?

You are advised to wash a new face mask before you use it for the first time, regardless of whether you have made it yourself, received it from someone else or purchased it from a craft shop or high-street store. This will enable you to follow the cleaning instructions issued by the health authorities. It is also important to ensure that the mask is safe, since it could have picked up any type of virus from the packaging or during transport. Washing your mask before you use it for the first time also helps reduce the risk of any allergies potentially caused by the new fabric.

How can I tell if my barrier mask is worn or damaged?

If your mask has been made by a manufacturer, there should be an indication as to how many times you can wash it. Keep count whenever you wash your mask. However, we would advise you to examine your mask carefully after each wash.  There are various ways to tell if your mask is beginning to show signs of wear and tear:

  • The folds in the fabric may start tearing
  • The seams may start coming undone
  • The elastic ties may be over-stretched

If you notice any one of these tell-tale signs, then it is time to replace your mask.

How should I dispose of my used barrier mask?

According to the recommendations in the “AFNOR Spec – Barrier Masks” guidelines, you should dispose of your used mask in a general or residual waste bin. You can also add the mask to your household waste or use a local textile recycling service if you first wash the mask in accordance with the appropriate recommendations.

Do barrier masks satisfy the obligation that came into force in France on 1 September 2020 requiring people to wear a face mask at work?

Yes, just like a surgical mask. This is confirmed in the health regulations, which were updated on 31 August 2020. When a company’s employees are performing an activity that does not require any special personal protective equipment, which specifically excludes healthcare professionals, they may wear a barrier mask in the environments specified in the obligation of 1 September 2020 (in addition to good hygiene practices), such as open-plan offices, corridors, lifts, meeting rooms and reception desks (employees working alone in individual offices do not need to wear a mask). The employer is responsible for providing masks. If necessary, to provide employees with a truly effective level of protection, the employer will ensure that its barrier masks have been designed according to the specifications in AFNOR SPEC S76-001. Putting the “NF Barrier Mask” logo on the masks or packaging is an added bonus.

I am a private individual. Why should I choose a mask with NF Barrier Mask certification?

NF barrier masks that have been certified by AFNOR Certification are guaranteed to be high-quality, safe and reliable. Their manufacture has been controlled across the entire chain (traceability of the raw materials used, origin and performance of their components, production, packaging, information for consumers, etc.) by means of an audit at the production site by an independent third-party organization.

NF Barrier Masks certification prioritizes comfort, filtration efficiency and ease of use:

  • In terms of the fastenings (which can be self-adjusted behind the ears or head); tests are carried out by an independent laboratory to check the strength of the head harness.
  • In terms of increased breathability: this value is twice as high as the threshold required by the specifications in AFNOR Spec S76-001.

I am a consumer, a public buyer or a private buyer. How can I check that the mask I have purchased really has been certified to the NF Barrier Masks standard?

To prove that products have actually been certified, the manufacturer who has obtained NF Barrier Masks certification is required to display a QR code on the packaging, so that users can view the certificate online, along with the certification number and issue date.

What should I do if my mask gets wet in the rain?

Surgical masks and fabric masks are both less effective if they get wet in the rain or if they are damp through use (breathing, perspiration, etc.). You are strongly advised to replace your wet mask with a new dry mask. Surgical masks are designed for medical use. There are no usage tests to prove that a surgical mask that has been worn for less than the recommended four hours, but which has become wet and then been dried, is just as effective as a new surgical mask. Surgical masks are designed for single use only, so you are not advised to wear your surgical mask again. Instead, you should dispose of your mask in a waste bin, preferably in a dedicated bag.

Likewise, if your fabric barrier mask gets wet, you are advised to replace it with another dry mask. You can place the used mask in a laundry bag and then wash and dry it before using again.

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.

Certification

Who is eligible for NF Barrier Masks certification?

Manufacturers of all sizes (small businesses, large organizations, etc.) mass-producing barrier masks according to AFNOR SPEC S76-001 specifications (textile industry, pharmaceutical industry, etc.). Therefore, small-scale manufacturers of consumer face masks and sewing enthusiasts cannot apply for certification.

Who can apply for NF Barrier Masks certification?

NF Barrier Masks certification is available to any applicant (manufacturer, agent or distributor), whose products fall within the scope defined in Article 1 of the standard and which satisfy the technical requirements described in Article 1 of Section B in the certification standard.

Applicants ensure and assume responsibility for complying with all the requirements defined in the standard.

Which types of mask are eligible for NF Barrier Masks certification?

The non-medical masks listed below are eligible for NF Barrier Masks certification:

  • Such as defined in the French inter-ministerial memorandum of 29 March 2020, as updated on 26 April 2020:
    • Category 1 masks (UNS-1) for professionals in regular contact with a large number of people during their activity. They are made from materials that filter at least 90% of 3 μm particles (equivalent to the size of the particles emitted by the person wearing the mask).
    • Category 2 masks (UNS-2) intended to protect all the people in a group wearing them, as well as professionals in occasional contact with other people. They are made from materials that filter at least 70% of 3 μm particles.
  • Whose “pleated” or “duckbill” shape meets the specifications in SPEC S76-001 or whose shape complies with the specifications in the inter-ministerial memorandum.
  • Fitted with a self-adjusting feature.
  • Single-use or which can be washed at least five times (i.e. can be reused six times).
  • In adult or junior sizes.
  • Mass-produced and ready to use.

Which types of mask are excluded from NF Barrier Masks certification?

The types listed below are not eligible for NF Barrier Masks certification:

  • Masks subject to Regulation (EU) 2016/425 on personal protective equipment.
  • Masks subject to Directive 93/42/EEC or Regulation (EU) 2017/745 on medical devices.
  • Masks fitted with an inhalation or exhalation valve and a removable filter.
  • Masks whose head harness consists of straps that need to be tied.
  • Masks based on expert opinion, such a specified in SPEC S76-001:2020 and the CWA 17533:2020 guide.

What are the different characteristics for masks with NF Barrier Mask certification?

There are four types of NF-certified masks. You can see all the characteristics in the certification standard on page 8.

Which mask manufacturers have obtained NF certification?

The list of certified companies and products is available here (in French).

I am a manufacturer. Why should I apply for NF Barrier Masks certification?

NF certification sends out a strong message of endorsement for consumers and represents a hallmark of safety, assurance and quality. 84% of French people claim to be aware of the NF mark, and the presence of the logo on a product or packaging encourages 30% of them to buy (Opinion Way survey in January 2019 among a sample group of 1,000 people).

I am a manufacturer and I have already carried out testing to market my masks. Do I need to carry out those tests again to obtain NF Barrier Masks certification?

If you have already carried out testing in 2020 through one of the official organizations or recognized laboratories featured in this list, you may be exempt from additional testing in order to qualify for NF Barrier Mask certification. However, you may need to conduct a specific head harness strength test, which is a prerequisite for obtaining NF Barrier Masks certification.

I am a manufacturer and I have a stock of masks that I would like to get certified. Is it possible?

A specific process has been set up to audit and certify your stocks of masks (if your traceability is deemed to be adequate and proof of testing can be provided).