Heikki Junninen1, Nieves Maria Flores March1, Marko Vana1, Kalju Tamme1, Helina Lipp1, Sander Mirme1, Siim Pikker1, Tareq Hussein This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.2,3, Markku Kulmala3 

1 Laboratory of Environmental Physics, Institute of Physics, University of Tartu, Tartu, 50411, Estonia
2 Environmental and Atmospheric Research Laboratory (EARL), School of Science, the University of Jordan, Amman, 11942, Jordan
3 Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR), Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, PL 64, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland

Received: January 19, 2024
Revised: May 17, 2024
Accepted: May 21, 2024

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.240021  

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Cite this article:

Junninen, H., March, N.M.F., Vana, M., Tamme, K., Lipp, H., Mirme, S., Pikker, S., Hussein, T., Kulmala, M. (2024). Particle Filtration Efficiency, Breathability, and Reusability of Common Masks. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 24, 240021. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.240021


  • Filtration and breathability are important characteristics for masks.
  • Hot water washing or boiling disinfects a mask efficiently.
  • N95 respirators are perfect masks but they had relatively low breathability.
  • Disposable masks/respirators can be washed and re-used several times.


The Filtration efficiency (FE) and breathability were evaluated for commonly used masks (total of 350 of commercial and home-made) before and after disinfection by one of three options: washing machine (60°C, 90 minutes), boiling in water (5 minutes), or holding in hot water (decreasing temperature from 90°C to 80°C, 5 minutes). The overall average breathability was 97 Pa cm2 with disposable masks had pressure difference better than community mask requirements. According to our results, the FE of 0.3 µm (FE0.3µm) > 80% for 136 masks and that for 3 µm (FE3µm) > 80% for 194 masks. In general, disposable masks had better FE (FE0.3µm = 89% and FE3µm = 96%) than multiple-usable masks (FE0.3µm = 39% and FE3µm = 66%). The commercial masks (FE0.3µm = 55% and FE3µm = 75%) had higher performance than self-made masks (FE0.3µm = 21% and FE3µm = 54%). An additional layer in a commercial mask enhanced FE0.3µm from 35% to 84% and FE3µm from 69% to 94%. The FE (likely remained more than 50%) was not affected significantly after cleaning a mask and the breathability was not changed. It is concluded here that disposable masks and respirators can be washed and used several times without losing much quality of the masks regarding the FE and breathability. The best masks for FE were N95 respirators, but they had relatively low breathability. When also counting the breathability, the equally good performance was for commercial multiple-usable masks with filtering layer and disposable masks.

Keywords: Fine particles, Particle filtration, Breathability, Disinfection, Mask

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