When you think of personal protective equipment (PPE), the one item that most likely comes to mind is a face mask. But there’s actually a wide variety of face masks that all feature varying levels of protection against hazards like SARS-CoV-2. The four main categories of masks are face coverings, sewn cloth masks, single-use surgical masks, and respirator masks.

Why Should You Wear a Face Mask?

Brooklyn Sewn Cloth Masks

The main goal of most mask types is to prevent you from spreading germs to others, not to prevent others from spreading germs to you. Face coverings, sewn cloth masks, and single-use masks are all designed to protect others, while respirator masks are additionally designed to protect the wearer. However, that’s not to say that wearing a non-respirator-type mask won’t protect you to an extent. They still offer a level of protection, but not nearly as much as a respirator mask does.

As for when face masks should be worn, if you’re going to be in a public setting where you’re unable to keep six feet of distance between yourself and those around you, you should be wearing a mask of some sort. The idea behind wearing masks in these public settings is a bit like the concept of herd immunity you may be familiar with.

With herd immunity, the idea is that if most people are immune, then the population as a whole will be more protected because the virus will have a hard time spreading. Wearing masks effectively accomplishes the same goal. If the vast majority of people wear masks in public, then even if they are sick there will be a very low chance of them spreading the virus. The only problem is if a sick person doesn’t wear a mask — and since you can be contagious before showing symptoms, you should always wear a mask just in case.

Face Coverings

Face coverings are makeshift “masks” that are little more than pieces of cloth used to cover the face. Bandanas and scarves are examples of face coverings, but they can also be t-shirts or anything else used to cover the mouth and nose. Face coverings provide the least amount of protection, both for the wearer and those around them, because they hang loosely over the face. But, wearing a face covering is still better than nothing. The primary benefit of these coverings is that they’re readily accessible and can be reused so long as they are washed after each use.

The items used as face coverings are also extremely customizable. The color and pattern can be selected, and they can even be imprinted with a brand logo.

Sewn Cloth Masks

Sewn cloth face mask

Sewn cloth masks are the next step up from face coverings as far as protection is concerned. Since they’re still made of cloth, their filtering capabilities are on par with face coverings, which aren’t really able to filter out incoming particles. However, unlike face coverings, sewn masks are made specifically to be worn covering the mouth and nose, and so have a much tighter, more protective fit. This tighter fit around the face blocks more germs from entering and exiting around the peripheral of the mask.

As with face coverings, sewn cloth masks are reusable as long as they are routinely washed. It’s recommended to wash your mask after each use, but at the very least it should be allowed to dry out before being worn again. And, sewn cloth masks are also highly customizable, with colors, patterns, and imprinted logos.

Single-Use Surgical Masks

Single-use surgical mask

Single-use surgical masks are the type of masks you often see surgeons or dentists wearing when there isn’t a pandemic going on. These paper masks are typically multi-layered, with anywhere from three to five layers (3-ply is the most common). They have the same coverage area as sewn cloth masks but are far more effective at filtering out particles.

The main downside to using single-use surgical masks is their single-use nature. These masks are not intended to be used more than once, and doing so could compromise their effectiveness. This is not recommended and is more of a last resort.

Respirator Masks

Respirator masks are the best option when it comes to protecting those around you, and especially yourself. These are the only types of masks that can adequately filter out incoming microscopic particles. They also form a seal against the face around the mouth and nose, ensuring that there is no peripheral leakage in either direction.

The widely known N95 and KN95 masks fall into the respirator category, which is why they’re the preferred masks for healthcare workers during the pandemic. In fact, N95 masks are reserved solely for healthcare workers, and Safeguard Premier does not carry them in stock.


You should wear a face mask whenever you’re out in public and are unable to keep 6 feet away from those around you. In most cases, the mask is also not really for your own protection, but rather for protecting everyone else around you. For this reason, you should want those around you to also be wearing masks, because that will help protect you. Face coverings are the most basic form of mask and offer the least amount of protection. Sewn cloth masks are a better alternative and are still able to be reused after washing. Single-use surgical masks have increased filtration properties, but are meant to be disposed of after being worn. And respirator masks are the gold standard of face mask protecting you and those around you.

PPE from Safeguard Premier

To help prevent your employees and customers from spreading the virus, it’s a good idea to require that masks be worn within your place of business. Whether you need masks for your employees or mask signage to let your customers know of your policies regarding the wearing of masks, contact your local Safeguard Premier representative today. We have PPE and other protective items in stock with short lead times.