Face Masks Standards – Filtration Effectiveness & Ratings

Face Mask Filtration Effectiveness

Understanding Varying Levels of Face Mask Protection

Face Mask standards will no doubt be confusing to the majority of the general public – surgical masks, respirators, ffp3 or N95? In this post we will cover the main face mask types, mask ratings, and what their effectiveness at filtering particles/contaminates can be.

We will begin by looking at the different mask types and certification types. Generally, there are around 3 or 4 types of the more commonly used disposable face masks. They are single-use face masks, surgical masks, and respirator face masks.


Mask TypeStandardsFiltration Effectiveness
Blue Disposable Surgical Face Masks 3 Ply Tie-on - One SizeSingle-Use Face MaskChina: YY/T09693.0 Microns >95%

0.1 Microns > X

Green Disposable Surgical Face Masks 3 Ply With Ear Loop - One Size

Surgical Mask

China: YY 04693.0 Microns >95%

0.1 Microns >30%

USA: ASTM F2100Level 1Level 2Level 3
3.0 Microns: >95%

0.1 Microns: 95%

3.0 Microns: >98%

0.1 Microns: 98%

3.0 Microns: >98%

0.1 Microns: >98%

Europe: EN 14683Type 1 Type 2 Type 3
3.0 Microns: >95%

0.1 Microns: X

3.0 Microns: >98%

0.1 Microns: X

3.0 Microns: >98%

0.1 Microns: X

FFP3 N95 Face MaskRespirator MaskUSA: NOSH (42 CFR 84)
China: GB2626
N95 / KN95N99 / KN99N100 / KN100
0.3 Microns: >95%0.3 Microns: >99%0.3 Microns: >99.97%
Europe: EN 149:2001FFP1FFP2FFP3
0.3 Microns: >80%0.3 Microns: 94%0.3 Microns: 95%

3.0 Microns: Bacteria Filtration Efficiency standard (BFE).
0.1 Microns: Particle Filtration Efficiency standard (PFE).
0.3 Microns: Used to represent the most-penetrating particle size (MPPS), which is the most difficult size particle to capture.
X: No requirements.

Standards & Effectiveness Overview

  1. Single-use face masks – These are usually a thin single layer mask primarily used for capturing dust-sized particles and contaminates.
  2. Surgical face mask – These masks have a higher standard of requirement for capturing virus-sized (0.1 microns) particles, but the standards can change by country also.
  3. Respirator face masks capture >90% of virus-sized particles. Browse the rating table above to see the exact proportion each certification requires.

Certifications Change Country by Country

Many countries will use their own standards and certifications for each face mask type. For instance, the EU uses the EN 14683 standard for surgical face masks, but China uses the YY 0469 standard. Each standard varies a little by country, however, they are fairly similar.

Requirements Are Lowest for Single Use Masks

The face mask with the lowest requirements on filtration performance is the single-use face masks (not to be confused with surgical masks). Surgical masks have higher requirements, and respirators face masks have the highest requirements. Respirators masks often have a tighter fit around the face than both surgical masks and single-use face masks.

Rating Levels of Masks – N95, FFP1, FFP2 & FFP3

The ratings are for the filtration level of the face mask, as well as other things.

EN 149:2001+A1:2009 / ASTM F2100 / NIOSH

These are standards for face masks. They outline the rules and testing practices companies follow to rate their face masks. These mask standards define the N95, FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3.