Due to the trouble caused by COVID-19 I started to take a personal interest in masks and filters. So, I started researching them with the intentions of finding out the most accurate and useful information. And while I was researching, I thought it would be a good idea to share the various information I’ve found. I have to say though, I am no medical expert. All the information I am sharing is all based on what I’ve personally found, seen and heard in Korea. In this post, I wanted to share information about mask filters and realistic alternatives to them as it has become increasingly difficult to find them.
First, one of the best performing and medically graded mask filter is the MB filter. The MB filter is an abbreviation of Melt Blown filter, and is classified as a type of non-woven fabric. The filter catches fine dust and virus particles by using static electricity and is often used as the core material for many health masks. It would be best to be able to get this filter, however due to the current shortage, it is very difficult to find them near by. Even mask manufactories are having hard time producing masks. Also, the ones that are sold online as MB filters, it is difficult to find ones with approved papers. Meaning, it is impossible to check if they are actual MB filters.
Experts have suggested using nano filters as an alternative to MB filters. According to those experts, nano filters can even be better than MB filters, as MB filters see a significant drop of effectiveness after 3 hours of usage but nano filter can be used up to 7 days because it doesn’t have the moisture problem that MB filters have. They also say that it is easier to breath in a nano filter than a MB filter. However, it cannot be a realistic alternative as nano filters are very expensive. Not only that but nano filters need to undergo a certification process by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety as it is classified differently from MB filters.
From February to mid March, people in Korea who had trouble finding masks started making DIY masks with filters. And like mentioned above, MB filters were not available, so many people had to look for filters that could replicate its effects (currently Korea does not have any issues with mask and filter stocks). Among the items used at the time were, kitchen towels, static or water resistant non-woven fabrics (the ones that I specifically introduced on our website and not any general ones), and air conditioner or air purifier filters.
But some of these alternatives had issues. Kitchen towels for example, is a product that is freely available but they are not very good filters for splash particles as they soak up moisture too quickly. Electrostatic non-woven fabrics (fabric often used for hospital gowns and diapers) on the other hand were effective. Researchers in Korea found that they could block up to 85% of particles, based on a particle size of 0.4 µm. But even this had limited supplies and so it could not be used by many people.
It wasn’t easy to obtain a working filter. Especially ones that were safe to use. For example, people tried using the static non-woven filters used in cleaning tools but the problem was that it could contain materials that were harmful for the human body. And certain types of filters used for air conditioners and air purifiers contain glass fiber in them. This is particularly an issue since people will be breathing through the filter. This could lead to glass particles entering into the body through the nose, which can be very harmful. For this reason, when choosing an alternative filter, you should at the very least use a filter that isn’t directly harmful to the body.
In Korea, the water resistant non-woven fabric (the ones that I specifically introduced on our website and not any general ones), which was launched by a major Korean fabric company, became a very popular, safe and obtainable alternative. This is a medically graded fabric approved by SGS and FiTi, and is an actual material used in masks. And since it is water resistant, the fabric is very effective towards viruses like COVID-19 since it spreads easily through droplets. Materials used for umbrellas and raincoats could also effectively block droplet particles but they have very low breathability and could be irritating to the skin when in close contact. So, the water resistant non-woven fabric is a good choice. It could block splash particles, has good breathability and above all it is safe to use without any harmful side effects. It is important to note that this alternative is also easy to obtain unlike the MB filter or nano filter. Many Koreans used this material as an alternative filter due to this. I also personally think the water resistant non-woven fabric is the most realistic alternative I currently have available.
This is all the information I have found about filters so far. If you are looking for a filter or an alternative filter, I hope you can find one that is effective and safe for you to use! Hopefully this post can help keep you safe!
By Sue Kim