Can you fix the broken straps of your surgical mask?

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for face masks, especially surgical masks, increases. It is because of the fact that surgical masks offer protection against the virus, which can be spread through respiratory droplets. These droplets are produced by coughing, sneezing, and even talking. 

Aside from disposable surgical masks, there is also a huge demand for N95 masks, especially in the medical field. Both types of masks are widely used by healthcare workers and medical staff.

Other types of face masks that are also used for protection include cloth masks and disposable non-medical masks. 

What is a surgical mask?

A surgical mask is a disposable face mask. It usually comes in a 3-ply design and each layer offers another level of protection. One layer is water repellent, which prevents the absorption of large droplets. 

A surgical mask has a loose-fitting design, thus it cannot provide full protection against airborne particles and other contaminants, but it is enough to protect against splashes of water, blood, respiratory droplets, and other bodily fluid. 

A surgical mask should not be used multiple times. It should be discarded immediately after each use, or when it gets wet, dirty, or broken.

Common issue

Surgical masks are made comfortable and breathable. They are very lightweight. A well-made surgical mask is durable. However, there are cases when the strap of the surgical mask is broken. A broken strap is a very common issue among surgical masks and other types of face masks, like N95 masks. 

Surgical mask vs N95 mask: Which is better?

Surgical masks and N95 masks are designed differently because they have different functions. They are both disposable and protect the wearers from air particles and contaminants but one offers better protection than the others.

An N95 mask or sometimes referred to as an N95 respirator is a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is designed to protect the users from airborne particles. The N95 mask is a well-known particulate-filtering facepiece respirator widely used not only in the medical field but also in the mining and construction industries.  

The N95 mask is tested and regulated by the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). As the name suggests, an N95 mask can filter at least 95% of airborne particles. 

N95 masks and surgical masks are both cleared by the FDA and approved by NIOSH for medical use. Both are designed to be lightweight, comfortable, and easy to breathe in.

The N95 mask has a tight, close-fitting design and for the N95 mask to work efficiently, it should be worn correctly. Also, it should be worn during exposure. The N95 mask must fit snugly to the face, ensuring that there is no gap between the skin and the respirator seal.

In summary, the N95 mask offers better protection than the surgical mask. But there is no need to wear an N95 mask if you only need to protect yourself from large droplets or particles. In times of the coronavirus, both the N95 mask and surgical mask are considered very important for the medical staff and healthcare workers. 

Is it okay to fix a broken surgical mask?

A surgical mask is disposable and it should be discarded when it is broken. Fixing a surgical mask is not ideal. Once the strap is broken it is advisable to throw it and use a new functional surgical mask. 

If you purchase a mask and the damage is in bulk, check if you can ask for a replacement from the seller and report it to the concerned authorities.

Other tips

Since it is not possible to fix a broken surgical mask, make sure to buy high-quality masks. Only buy from trusted sellers and make sure it is reasonably-priced. 

If you have N95 masks or cloth masks, here’s how to fix them when the strap is broken:

N95 masks

  • Perform hand hygiene by washing the hand with soap and water. Wash the hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Get a scissor and cut two new elastic straps. One strap is longer, about 15 inches long and the other is about 11 inches long.
  • Remove the old strap completely by opening the edges of the N95 masks. Discard the straps.
  • Place the two straps, with the longer strap on top of the shorter one. 
  • Set the sewing machine on 2.5 and use narrow and small thread. Sew the straps into the N95 mask. 
  • Tack the new straps on the inside of the N95 masks.
  • Stack the completed N95 mask back in its box.

Cloth masks

  • Using a scissor, cut off any possible fraying on the face mask and the detached strap.
  • Position the face mask on a flat surface.
  • Get the sewing thread and sewing needle and make sure to secure the far end of the sewing thread with a knot.
  • Hand stitch the strap of the mask.
  • Repeat the process until the strap is attached. 
  • To secure the strap, stitch it twice.
  • Cut off any excess thread.

Other issues

  • If the mask is too big, adjust the fit by making the ear loops shorter. Tie each ear loop and make sure that knot sits behind the ears.
  • For a cloth mask without a nose piece, you can make a nose piece by putting several wire twists on the top of the mask.
  • To avoid glass fogging, Mold the fabric up around your nose and then put the glasses over the mask.

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