Do masks really work? Lets find out!

I am going to try different styles and types of masks along with spray paint to see which mask has the best protection. I will use an n95, 2 layer and 3 layer, surgical and bandana style masks.
Alora Tomashewsky
Grade 5


I have decided to conduct an experiment on if there is any value in wearing a mask or a face covering , and to see what type of materials are the best at filtering particles in the air. We know that there are many different kinds of materials people can use for a face covering, or mask. I think that aftet this experiment we will see that the higher grade of a mask will keep particles in. I know that the thicker material that you can use the more it will filter particles (or sneezes , coughs ) or keep these inside the mask.I think that by trying different types of materials, along with an aerosol spray paint mimicking a cough , or even just talking to someone will show me how much these masks or face coverings will filter out.



In the beginning of Covid, when we started wearing masks, we sewed two ply cotton masks for us to wear. These were ok, but then we started wearing 3 ply disposable face masks, as well as KN95's. We also use Level 3 surgical masks. I have never worn Banadanas for a face covering but have seen these worn as well. There are many different opionions on Mask wearing in the world. Places like China, which has high pollution, can be more accepting on wearning masks, but USA and Canada have not been so happy to wear them as we have seen alot of Anti mask rallies against it! 

Medical masks - meant to help prevent contact from droplet and sprays , and also larger particles in the air.These are produced from polymers such as polypropylene, polyurethane, polyacrylonitrile, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, or polyester.They are made with three layers,with outer layer (water resistant) , middle layer (filter) and inner layer (soft fibers)

bandana - can be used as a face covering, will reduce the spread of droplets from 8 feet to 4 feet.

Cotton mask (two layer) - honemade, may filter out 35 % of small particles.Will reduce spread from 8 feet to 2.5 inches.These are best if made out of 3 layers, inner layer (cotton), middle layer (non woven, non absorbant material) outer layer (non absorbant material) These are a high source of Mirco fibers in our environment.

Disposbale surgical masks - one time use,can filter out 60% of small particles.There are made from similar materials as Medical Masks , but the level of protection will vary depending on how and where they are made.

KN95 - can filter out 95% of small particles , but are very expensive.


Types of Variables in the Mask experiment

Controlled - 

Temperature held constant/ same amount of wind / same type of spraypaint / same distance apart with each mask / same duration of bursts of spray 

Dependant - 

How much spray paint splatter will go through a mask.

Independant - 

Mask types


1. Buy 1.5 foot plywood board and two small dowells to hold masks. 

2. Buy 6 x 30 inch x 12 inch secured cardboard. Cut into two 12 inch length pieces, (these are  to show paint splatter when sprayed through mask.

3. Buy a trifold board (to prop cardboard securely in place)

4. Buy an assortment of masks.

5. Buy some spraypaint that will be used to spray ( as in to mimic talking /coughing/sneezing) that will be sprayed inside the mask, towards the cardboard sheet.

6.Drill two small holes in each side of the wood plank.Cut small slit in top of dowell down vertically  ( to hold mask in place ),  insert dowell in each hole. 

7. Install the mask by sliding earpieces down into the slits on the dowells. Make sure the masks are pulled snug and open the pleats as you would if you were wearing it.

8. Open the trifold board and put it up in an area that is not windy, as these will fall down easliy. 

9. Lean a piece of the cardboard inside the trifold board. 

10. Measure - 12 inches and 6 inches - from the dowells to the cardboard. This will be a start to see how far the splatter from the spray will reach.

11. Point spraypaint can towards the inside of the mask. When pushing down on the button to spray the paint , try a few short bursts of paint, along with a longer spray. As in.. Hello there, How are you doing today?.. and cough cough... sneeze!

12. Now take a look at the cardboard to see if there is any paint splatter on it? Use  12 inches and 6 inches distance, 

13. See if and how wet the masks are on the inside and outside. Check to see if it is soaked through, soaked only on the inside or both inside and outside of the mask.

14. Turn the cardboard around and use other side with a new and different style mask.

15. Record your findings from each of the procedures.


Date Mar 6/21 Mar 10/21 Mar 11/21        
Time 10:45 am 2:52 pm 3:15 pm        
Place carport - closed door carport - closed door carport - closed door        
Weather inside carport - protected from elements inside carport - protected from elements inside carport - pretected from elements        
Mask type 3 ply disposable - 12 inches away - no splatter on board/ mask soaked through. 6 inches away- no splatter - mask soaked through. $1 store cloth  - 12 inches away - no splatter on board/mask was soaked through. 

KN95 - 12 inches away - no splatter on board - wet on inside and damp on outside.

6 inches away - no splatter on board/mask wet on inside and damp on outside.

  Level 3 surgical - 12 inches away - no splatter on board/mask wet/not soaked through. 6 inches away - no splatter on board/mask wet/not soaked through. Bandana - folded - 6 inches away - no splatter on board/mask was soaked through first layer/ lightly through second layer.          
    Bandana - unfolded - 6 inches away - a fair amount of splatter on board/mask soeaked through.          



Congratulations on wearing a mask in public! You are one of the many people that are helping the world control the spread of Covid 19 and other particles.

Within this experiment i have used many different types of masks and face coverings and using a spray paint to check to see how much particles will go through these. This experiment was very useful in showing me that masks do work. The medical and surgical masks worked very well in containing the spray and keeping them within the mask. The cloth masks kept the spray within but still soaked the mask on the outside as well. So with these masks a person will have to be very careful in removing them and making sure they do not touch the outside and putting them in a sealed bag. These will have to go straight into the wash, for if you do have covid 19/illness the mask will be soaked through with the particles. You will have to make sure that you wash your hands/use santizer after romoving them as it may be on your hands and if you touch any surfaces another person could contract your illness. Banadanas, or face coverings of this type, are not very useful. This is the only facecovering in my experiment that did leave splatter at 6 inches away from the board. This was a controlled experiment so i can imagine if there was a wind that it may also travel further. The particles in covid/illness are smaller than the paint spray particles so given this information, i would keep at least 4 feet distance away from people if they are wearing a mask as well. I would be further than that if they aren't wearing a mask!


In conclusion, I have taken all the information that has been researched, and can safely say that wearing a mask will  help control Covid 19 /illness. When a person wears a mask it will protect others from spreading particles. When every person wears a mask they are also keeping their illnesses within  their mask, reducing the spread in the air. It is also smart to give people their space. A six foot distance betweeen people will help along with washing hands regularily and not touching your face. I have realized as well that it doesnt have to be a N95 mask to work, so using any type of facecovering is better than nothing at all.

I have tested these masks multiple times and did have the same results of no splatter on the board. The only facecovering that did show splatter of particles was the bandana, which i tried 2 times with different bandanas and thickness. The most splatter was when i used the thin bandana, but with only one layer.

I an wondering if perhaps at a later date, I should explore how using masks have changed our environment? Did they all make it  to the landfill? What happens to them after 20 years of sitting in the garbage? Do they break down or stay forever the same? How many make it to the ocean and lakes, or littered all over our streeets? This might be another idea for my next Science Fair Project!



As we should all be doing these days, before going into a public place wear a mask. Make sure your hands are clean, and you are wearing a new mask. Cover your mouth, chin and nose with the mask and avoid touching it during wear. When you are going to take it off, sanitize your hand, then take it off by the ear loops and either throw it away (if it is disposable) or put in a zip lock bag and put in wash. As long as you are wearing your mask and staying away from people six feet, we will get back to a normal , virus free life.

Sources Of Error

As we have finished out experiment, i would like to point a few things out. My experiment was done in a very controlled setting, with no wind or outside elements to directly change the outcome. If there was wind or rain/snow the splatter may have traveled onto the white board and have shown some splatter. If two people were talking with masks on , but with wind the particles may spread towards the other person more.The particles from the spray paint are larger than covid 19 particles so this as well may have some impact to how much particles will go through the masks. Also, the force of a sneeze or cough may be different than the force of the spray paint bursts, so this may change the results as well.


I would like to acknowledge my sister, Haley for lending me her carport for this experiment. It made it alot easier to control the environment.

My dad, for helping me build and paint the stand, that worked really great for holding the masks in place.

I would also like to thank my Mom, who drove me around looking for random masks and kept me on track.