What is a “barrier mask”?

A barrier mask is a washable fabric mask intended for the public to improve collective protection. Wearing it in no way exempts users from taking other protective measures as a matter of routine, such as observing social distancing.

According to AFNOR Spec S76-001, there are two categories of barrier mask:

  • UNS 1 / category 1: this filters at least 90% of 3-micron particles. The Haut conseil de santé publique (the French high public health council) recommends the wearing of his model of mask. Unlike a surgical mask, this mask has the advantage of being washable and reusable.
  • UNS 2 / category 2: this mask filters at least 70% of 3-micron particles

Is it inadvisable to wear fabric masks?

In January 2021, the Haut conseil de santé publique recommended wearing masks that filter at least 90% of 3-micron particles. This new measure, along with social distancing and personal protective measures, aims to improve prevention with regard to the different Covid-19 variants, deemed to be more contagious.

Category 1 fabric masks made according to AFNOR Spec S76-001 filter at least 90% of these particles and are therefore recommended. Depending on model, the degree of protection they provide is close to, or even better than, the protection provided by surgical masks. Home-made category 2 masks are therefore not recommended from now on.

Should I wear a surgical mask or an FFP mask?

In its January 7, 2022 guidance, the Haut conseil de santé publique does not recommend wearing an FFP mask, which is a single-use protective respiratory device (standard NF EN 149). This type of mask is intended to protect the wearer against the inhalation of airborne droplets and particles that could contain infectious agents. Wearing this type of mask is more uncomfortable (heat, resistance to breathing) than wearing a surgical mask. There are three categories of FFP masks, classed according to 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%).

Surgical masks can be worn because, again according to the Haut conseil de santé publique, they offer a filtration level of at least 90%, like category 1 fabric masks made according to AFNOR SPEC S76-001.

Both of these types of mask contribute to collective protection. They are designed to prevent the outward projection of droplets by the wearer onto other people. They also protect the wearer against the droplets projected by other nearby people. On the other hand, they do not protect against inhalation of very small airborne particles, which FFP masks do.

Is wearing more than one mask a good idea?

Wearing two masks one over the other can improve filtration if their fabrics are different. On the other hand, this can certainly hamper breathability, making it difficult to wear the mask when conversing or walking at a quicker pace, for instance. By wearing such a mask, one runs the risk of having to remove it due to discomfort, without being in a position to wash one’s hands or put on a new one, thus running the risk of being contaminated.


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

Despite their good filtering capacity, these types of filter 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 that can give rise to risks of allergy (in particular serious asthma attacks) and/or toxicity. In addition, these types of filter do not achieve good results in terms of breathability.

Making Masks

How can I tell whether the barrier mask achieves 90% filtration efficiency?

The Haut conseil de santé publique‘s January 2021 guidance recommends wearing masks that filter at least 90% of 3-micron particles. A category 1 fabric mask, made according to AFNOR SPEC S76-001, provides this level of protection.

If you made your mask yourself by hand in 2020, you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that it is sufficiently effective. So prudence recommends opting for a new mask made by a manufacturer, laboratory-tested and labeled category 1.

Which fabrics should be used to make a barrier mask?

The AFNOR Spec document allows different combinations of fabric that have undergone tests. See the results here (in French). Based on feedback from craftsmen and well-informed individuals, we can share additional recommendations to help you choose materials according to their availability and affordability. We recommend:

To make a category 1 mask (90% filtration efficiency):

  • layer 1: cotton, 90 g/m²
  • layer 2: unwoven, 400 g/m²
  • layer 3: cotton, 90 g/m²

A more technical type:

  • Layer 1: 100% cotton, 115 g/m²
  • Layers 2, 3 and 4: 100% pp (non-woven polypropylene) spun bounded NT-PP 35 g/m² (very thin)
  • Layer 5: 100% cotton, 115 g/m²

If you cannot obtain these fabrics, use a combination of different ones: the filter is more effective if made with three different fabrics

  • One thick cotton fabric, like a dish towel
  • One polyester fabric, like a sports T-shirt
  • One thin cotton fabric, like a shirt

To estimate the surface density of a piece of fabric:

  • Weigh the piece of fabric on kitchen scales (in grams)
  • Measure its width and length, in meters
  • Its density is its weight / width x length

For example:

The cotton of a dish towel measuring 50 x 70 cm and weighing 80 grams has a surface density of 80 / 0.50 x 0.70 = 228 g/m²

What we do NOT recommend:

Combining cotton, wadding and cotton does not appear to achieve the required efficiency. Denim, oilcloth and coated fabric should also be avoided for reasons of breathability. Regarding workability, jersey cloth should also be avoided. In preparation for summer heat, avoid using fleece and rough cretonne.

Can I make masks for children?

Since April 28, the “AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks” document offers patterns to make masks for children over 7 years of age. This age threshold was determined on the basis of the recommendations of doctors consulted by AFNOR as part of a research program involving around 150 experts.

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 make a barrier mask according to the recommendations of the “AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks” document. Can I mention it?

Anyone following the “AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks” recommendations can mark their mask “Masque barrière AFNOR SPEC S76-001”, as permitted by the barrier masks specification (part 7 – Marking and information notice). This wording can be included in the instructions, on the packaging or on the mask. Manufacturers who mass-produce masks can go further by completing an NF certification process.

I am a private individual. Can I wear a barrier mask in public spaces?

You have followed AFNOR’s recommendations when making a mask or guiding your purchases. You can indeed use this mask whenever wearing one is mandatory in enclosed public spaces or on public thoroughfares. The UNS1 model (achieving at least 90% filtration of 3-micron particles) is recommended by the Haut conseil de santé publique. In any case, the mask must cover the mouth and the nose.


I am a private individual. Can I wear a barrier mask in public spaces?

You have followed AFNOR’s recommendations when making a mask or guiding your purchases. You can indeed use this mask whenever wearing one is mandatory in enclosed public spaces or on public thoroughfares. The UNS1 model (achieving at least 90% filtration of 3-micron particles) is recommended by the Haut conseil de santé publique. In any case, the mask must cover the mouth and the nose.

How should I wash a used barrier mask?

The “AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks” document updated in April gives the recommendations specified by the health authorities. Guidance issued by ANSM (French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety), revised on November 2, 2020, states (in French) that a used mask must be machine-washed with a standard detergent at 40 degrees for at least 30 minutes. The guidance points out that masks do not need to be washed separately: half-filling the washing machine guarantees thorough washing. In commercial laundries, the guidance recommends a cycle of at least 30 minutes at 60 °C. On September 7, 2020, the Académie de médecine (French academy of medicine) also stated that masks can be washed with a detergent at the same temperature as underwear.

Can I iron my mask?

Yes, to remove any wrinkles after washing and to finish drying it. Special care should be taken to avoid damaging the mask’s components, in particular the elastic ear loops. A word of caution: ironing a mask is no substitute for washing it.

My glasses mist up when I wear my mask. What should I do?

When glasses are worn all the time, they can mist up. This is because the mask is not tight enough around the nose bridge. When the mask has a nose-bridge strip fitted into it, press the mask firmly on the bridge of your nose.

For homemade fabric masks, you can add a nose-bridge strip when making it. Video example (explanations start at 14 min 30 seconds)

Several solutions for strips exist, such as a freezer bag fastener or a thin plastic-coated metal wire.

In any case, do not use solutions that risk injuring the user (do not use materials that are too stiff or have a sharp edge). The material must withstand washing or be removed before washing.

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 was made by a manufacturer, there should be an indication of 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 discard it with your household waste or use a local textile recycling service if you first wash the mask in accordance with the appropriate recommendations.

I am a private individual. Why should I choose a mask with the 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 is controlled along 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.

The 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 ear loops.
  • 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 4 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.


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.

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, 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).

document availability

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 March 27, 2020 being version 1.0. You can also ask AFNOR to delete your personal data.

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.

Revision history

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

Yes, the updated version of AFNOR Spec – Barrier masks 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 the publication of version 1.0 of AFNOR SPEC S76-001 dated March 27, 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.

Is there a European version of the AFNOR Spec S76-001 document?

Yes, since 17 June, 2020, at the request of the European Commission, CEN-Cenelec provides a reference document for download free of charge entitled CWA 17553:2020 “Community face coverings – Guide to minimum requirements, methods of testing and use”. Drafted under the supervision of AFNOR, it includes the essential recommendations of AFNOR Spec S76-001. It is only available in English.