Masking the Fears of Covid-19

My project is testing what brand of easily available masks are least permeable against water and fine powders.
Marlea Wang
Grade 6


Hypothesis: If a mask is made from tightly woven fabrics, then it has a higher protection rate against air, dust, or water penetration. If a mask has more layers then it will have greater protection against fine powders and human breathe transmission. 

32 Degrees smoothest, Homemade, Sport Chek, Gap least smooth (still smooth though)

My hypothesized order = N95 masks, Dust masks, Surgical masks, 32 Degrees masks, Homemade masks, Sport Chek masks, Gap masks 




  • experiment = using laser, cardboard box, light sheet make person talk see particles (Bai, 2020)
    • experiment showed hundreds droplets (ranging 20-500 micrometers) generated saying simple phrase (Bai, 2020)
      • but nearly all droplets blocked when damp cloth covered mouth (Bai, 2020)
  • people who = influenza/common cold found wearing surgical mask reduced amount respiratory viruses emitted droplets aerosols (Bai, 2020)
  • Coronavirus = illness caused by virus spread from person to person (Q&A, 2020)
    • Covid-19 symptoms range from mild to severe illness (Q&A, 2020)
      • fever, cough, fatigue, loss taste/ smell, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis (a.k.a. red eyes), sore throat, headache, muscle/ joint pain, skin rash, nausea/ vomiting, diarrhea, chills/ dizziness, shortness breath, loss appetite, confusion, pain/ pressure in chest, high temperature, irritability, reduced consciousness, anxiety, depression, sleep disorder, severe neurological complications (strokes, crain inflammation, delirium, nerve damage) (Q&A, 2020)
  • become infected close contact about 6 feet (2 arms lengths) with person who has Covid (CDC, 2021)
    • Infected = respiratory droplets infected person coughs/ sneezes/ talks (CDC, 2021)
    • Infected = touching surface/ object has virus on it then touch mouth/ nose/ eyes (CDC, 2021)
  • best way protect yourself stay home/ wear mask/ clean, disinfect frequently touched surfaces/ wash hands often soap water at least 20 seconds (CDC, 2021)
  • older people = higher risk (CDC, 2021)
  • stay home = sick (CDC, 2021)
  • avoid public transportation/ carpooling/ taxis (CDC, 2021)
  • separate from other people/ pets (CDC, 2021)
  • most protective mask = N95 masks because filter out large, small particles from breath (Ringer, 2020)
  • 32 Degrees masks made of ultra-fine yarns knitted high density performance fabric (single layer) (Peyser, 2020)
  • Sport Chek masks made of soft 100% cotton jersey knit (soft fabric) (triple layer) (Forzani, 2020)
    • 85% polyester, 15% spandex (Peyser, 2020)
  • Homemade masks made of fabric, cotton (double layer) (Davis, 2020)
  • Surgical masks made of non-woven fabric, polypropylene (better bacteria filtration, air permeability) (triple layer) (Hensley, 2020)
  • Dust masks made of cloth-like filter material (silicone, neoprene, rubber) (triple layer) (Osha Bulletin, 2011)
  • Medical N95 made of multiple layer of nonwoven fabric (polypropylene) (triple layer+woven) (Henneberry, 2020)
  • made of synthetic plastic fibers (polypropylene) rubber, metal straps/ staples/ nose bar (Talhelm, 2020)
  • material most commonly polypropylene (Talhelm, 2020)
  • Gap made of 100% cotton printed poplin (triple layer) (Fisher, 2020)
  • higher resistance = less flow (air) (CTaylor, 2014)
    • tighter material interlaced together = not much air flowing through (less chance Covid) (CTaylor, 2014)
  • tight-knit fabric = feel smooth, loose-knit fabric = bumpy/ ridged (MasterClass, 2021)

    My manipulated variable in this project will be the different brands of masks used. (32 Degrees, Sport Chek, Homemade, Surgical, Dust, N95, Gap) I will be doing a candle, vacuum, and water test on all 7 of these masks. Based on my research, it has shown that 32 Degrees masks have high-density, performance fabrics. Knitted together are ultra-fine yarns that are only single layered. Whereas, Sport Chek was a triple layered mask that is 100% cotton jersey knit. Similarly, is the Homemade mask which is also made out of cotton but is double layered. Having triple layer is Surgical masks that are made out of non-woven, polypropylene fabric for better bacteria filtration and air permeability. Next, is Dust masks that are made out of cloth-like filtering material some popular ones being, silicone, neoprene, or rubber and is triple layered. Closely, is N95 masks being interesting because it has 3 layers of nonwoven polypropylene fabric. And one woven layer. Also N95 masks have metal straps, some staples, and a nose bar. Lastly, is Gap masks which are 100% made out of cotton printed poplin where there are 3 layers of that. This shows that there are many different types of masks and they all have durabilities for each of them.

    I have also learned through my research that the smoother masks have tighter knit fabrics. So using that information I have sensed that between the knit masks. The order would be 32 Degrees smoothest, Homemade, Sport Chek, and Gap least smooth. But that isn’t to say that Gap isn’t smooth. The fabric choice was just very rough.  

    My responding variable in this project is the durability of my mask and which one is most permeable. For the candle test, I will looking at how much the flame moved when I was blowing on it. For the vacuum test, I will be measuring the amount of cornstarch on the sock and the amount of cornstarch on that mask. To measure the cornstarch on the sock I will draw squares on a clear, sheet of plastic and seeing roughly how many are covered in cornstarch. For the water test, I will be calculating the speed of the water flowing through the mask and if there is any drippage. To measure this I will use a device to record my testing then using the clock system in my device I will see how many seconds it takes for the water to empty. In conclusion, for each test I have figured a way to measure the test. 



Manipulated Variables

The manipulated variables for my project are the different brands of masks used. (32 Degrees, Sport Chek, Homemade, Surgical, Dust, N95, Gap)


Responding Variable

The responding variable for my project is the durability of my masks and which one is least permeable. I will be measuring the flame for the candle test, the amount of cornstarch for the vacuum test, and the speed of the water passing through for the water test.


Controlled Variable

  • Candle - same height and brand (President Club) of candle, same initial flame height, same elevation (on counter), same size of candle (20 cm by 6 cm), same wick length (0.8 cm first flame, 1 cm second flame)
  • Vacuum - same brand (Kings Ford’s), same amount of cornstarch used in each trial (enough to fill my tray with a thin layer)
  • Water - same amount of water (30 mL)
  • General - same adult mask for each brand (32 Degrees, Sport Chek, Homemade, Surgical, Dust, N95, Gap masks)

Though, one thing to note is that it is physically impossible for the air flow going through the mask to be the exact same because at different temperatures you could be getting differences in amount of air, temperature of air, and where it goes through your body.




First Test

  1. Grab candle
  2. Light the candle
  3. Put the masks on one by one
  4. Try to blow out the candle at a 20 cm length
  5. Record whether or not it, any affect on candle
  6. Blow out the flame

Second Test

  1. Put mask around end of vacuum
  2. On a tray, pour corn starch on it
  3. Turn on your vacuum and see how much powder gets through the mask at a 5-8 mm distance off of the cornstarch for 10 seconds

Third Test

  1. Put your mask in a sieve
  2. Pour 30ml water on the mask
  3. Push mask down against sieve, let water drain
  4. See how fast the water went through


Order for each test and conclusion according to results

Candle Test:  1.  N95   2.  Dust   3.  32 Degrees, Sport Chek   4.  Homemade   5.  Surgical, Gap

Order for each test and conclusion according to results

Vacuum Test:  1.  N95   2.  Surgical   3.  Dust   4.  Homemade   5.  32 Degrees   6.  Gap   7.  Sport Chek

Order for each test and conclusion according to results

Water Test:  1.   Dust, Gap   2.  N95   3.  Sport Chek   4.  32 Degrees   5.  Surgical   6.  Homemade 



I believe that N95 masks are the best masks to wear because of their materials. Polypropylene is so effective in masks because it is like this, “It holds an electrostatic charge. In other words, it uses the power of static electricity. Think of the static cling that can happen when you rub two pieces of fabric together. That’s basically what’s happening with this fabric: That “cling” effect traps incoming - and outgoing - droplets. “That’s what you want - the cling is what’s important” says Yi Chu, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University. (Godoy, 2020) Similar applies to the Surgical mask which is also made out of polypropylene. (Hensley, 2020) All in all, using my background research and my tests it shows that N95 masks are the least permeable against coronavirus. Also my hypothesized order and my current order the only difference is that Homemade and Gap masks switched positions. I believe that the reason for that is because the Gap and Sport Chek masks both have a triple layer whereas Homemade only has a double layer. (Davis, 2020) (Fisher, 2020) (Forzani, 2020) This also works though because all have the similar category of material, which is cotton.



Using all this data from all three tests it seems that the N95 had the most successful results comparing it to the others. This is because the N95 placed the highest in all tests successively. I would say the second one is the Dust mask. Unsurprisingly, having results that were very consistent. Following was the Surgical mask having not so well results in the candle test but unbelievable results in the vacuum test. Next, I have placed 32 Degrees for having mediocre results throughout all the tests. Then, I have placed Gap because even though it didn’t have the best results in the candle and the vacuum test. It had the best results having no drippage in the water test. Succeeding, is Sport Chek for having average results for the first and third test. But, not doing so well in the vacuum test having gone through the mask and onto the sock being the only mask that did that. Last but not least is the Homemade mask having done terrible in all three tests.


My hypothesis was partially correct in being that I did think the N95 was the best mask throughout all the tests but if you wanted something much more available do not choose Surgical masks. Better is a Dust mask but that is not to say that Surgical masks should not be worn. 



My experiment really helps and benefits everyone in this world right now because in this time where it is necessary to wear a mask. Depending on how protective you want to be this could help to show you which mask to wear to help prevent Covid the most. This also could help you when you are just shopping and deciding which mask to buy. So that you don’t have to test all of them. So it saves money and time.


Sources Of Error

During my experiment I felt that there were many things that I should have changed or clarified. One being that I should have made a more clear way of measuring my water test because I felt that when i was designing it. I could not think of any better way than just the speed of the water and the dripping. Second, to make my candle test more reliable I should have found a way to make the breathing more similar or the same. Next, more types of masks because if I had more types of mask then it could really help support my conclusion that, “N95 is the least permeable mask to fight against Covid-19 but if you wanted something more available you should choose Dust masks.” Another thing to note is that I had to rephrase my controlled variable to make it sound a lot better. From, “But there is also the fact that I cannot keep the force of the breath the same because I do not have a machine blowing into the mask. I just have a human trying their best to breath equally.” To, “Though, one thing to note is that it is physically impossible for the air flow going through the mask to be the exact same because at different temperatures you could be getting differences in amount of air, temperature of air, and where it goes through your body.”



Voltage, Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law,

“Adult Face Mask (3-Pack).” Gap,

“Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization,

“Department of Labor Logo UNITED STATESDEPARTMENT OF LABOR.” Safety and Health Information Bulletins (SHIBs) | Occupational Safety and Health Administration,

EXP 3-Layer Reusable Face Mask – Non-Medical S/M 3 Pack- Sport Chek

Getty. “Surgical Mask Facts: Why the Blue Side Should Always Face Out.”, PostMedia, 9 Nov. 2020, surgical masks are often,is used in some masks.

Godoy, Maria. “A User's Guide To Masks: What's Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself).” NPR, NPR, 1 July 2020,

Henneberry, Brittany. “How Surgical Masks Are Made, Tested and Used.” , Tested and Used, Thomas, face masks are made,meter (gsm) in density.

Henneberry, Brittany. “How to Make N95 Masks.” A Manufacturing Guide, Thomas, medical N95 respirator consists,are created using spun bonding.

“How Many Layers Is Your Face Mask? - MedicineNet Health News.” MedicineNet, MedicineNet, 24 July 2020,

“Knit vs. Woven: Learn How to Identify the Two Fabric Types - 2021.” MasterClass,


Laser Light-Scattering Experiment Showing Speech-Generated Droplets. (00:42). “Visualizing Speech-Generated Oral Fluid Droplets with Laser Light Scattering: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine,

“Still Confused About Masks? Here's the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus.” Still Confused About Masks? Here's the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus | UC San Francisco, 26 Feb. 2021,

Talhelm, Thomas. “Thomas Talhelm.” Smart Air, 8 Dec. 2020, masks are made from,, staples, and nose bar.

“Things to Know about the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

“Which Type of Face Mask Is Most Effective against COVID-19?” News,


I want to thank all the authors that wrote the fantastic articles I used to help with my background research, conclusion / analysis, and to complete this project. 

Mr. Baillie (Teacher),

Mrs. Sumerscales (Teacher),

Larry Wang (Dad)

And all my friends that helped me along the way (Lauren Au and Lola Ng)