The market for face coverings and masks is dynamic and fast-moving. Companies have accelerated their research and development to bring cutting edge products to the market, in a bid to help keep people safe. One of the trending technologies is antiviral facemasks.
Currently, Polygiene’s ViralOff technology is a leader in the field of treatment of textiles to provide antiviral properties. This product is a treatment that protects textile materials from viruses. This helps to reduce the need for fabrics, such as anti-pollution face masks to be washed after every use.
In this article, we will look at what antiviral face masks are and whether they are as effective as their name would suggest. We also assess the basis of Polygiene’s ViralOff technology and review competitor technologies.
What qualifies as an antiviral facemask?
For a company to market its facemask as being antiviral, the product needs to have undergone lab tests, resulting in certification. Any material or product that claims to be antiviral, but has not been certified is potentially dangerous and misleading.
In short, an antiviral product must be able to reduce viral activity, generally through morphological change or structural damage to the surface protein of the virus. As a result, the material or fabric prevents the virus from replicating and spreading.
In relation to antiviral textile products, in particular antiviral face masks, you should look for products that have been tested and passed the ISO18184:2019 (Textiles – Determination of antiviral activity of textile products) standard. Without such certification, it is difficult to prove the efficacy of materials being advertised as antiviral.
By applying an antiviral finishing on fabric or finished textile products, manufacturers can achieve antiviral property on products such as antipollution face masks that give the wearer extra protection. The antiviral treatment not only provides the wearer with an added layer of protection, but it also protects the garment, reducing the need for it to be washed regularly.
Any antiviral product should specify the exact viruses that it is effective against
As part of the rigorous lab tests used in ISO18184:2019, each textile product is exposed to a specific virus and left for two hours. To pass, the textile product must reduce the virus by 99%. It would not be an accurate test if the same material were used on many strains of virus at once. Therefore any material that conforms to the ISO18184:2019 ISO standard will advertise the exact virus strains that the textile can protect against.
ISO18184:2019 – Testing Process – How does it work?
To be considered antiviral, the following stringent ISO test must be strictly adhered to:
Step 1 – Preparation of specific virus strains to be used in the test.
Step 2 – A liquid solution that contains the virus strains is placed on the textile product being tested.
Step 3 – After 2 hours, the textile product is rinsed using a special solution.
Step 4 – The solution used to rinse the product then has cells exposed to it. These cells are then evaluated to see if they get infected by the virus that was placed on the textile product in step 2.
The results will show how much of the virus remains after being exposed to the textile product after a defined amount of time. To pass the test, the product must reduce the initial amounts of the virus by 99% within 2 hours.
What is the ViralOff technology based on?
ViralOff has been tested against Influenza A, BirdFlu, Norovirus and most recently COVID19 (SARS-CoV-2), in all cases it passed the ISO18184:2019 standard test, reducing the virus by 99% over a two-hour timespan.
ViralOffs active ingredient is Silver Chloride and it is safe to use against your skin as it does not interfere with your skins natural bacterial flora.
Alternatives to ViralOff?
Polygiene is one of the first companies to get their product to the market, thanks to their work during the fight against SARS in 2004. However, due to the rise in demand for antiviral materials and products, there are a few other names in the market. Most competitors are advertised as being antibacterial instead of antiviral. Bacterial reduction is the subject of a separate laboratory test and certification standard, and is a topic of discussion on its own.
However, there are likely to many newcomers to this growing market. Make sure you do your research and check out any test or accreditations that the product/treatment has received.
Is an antiviral face mask sufficient to protect you from viruses?
In short, no. Reusable cloth based antiviral face masks are not equivalent nor as effective as N95 medical use respiratory face masks at protecting you against viruses such as COVID. There are a number of other factors that need to be considered.
The antiviral treatment is often only applied to the outer fabric of the antiviral facemask. The type of fabric being used is also important, as well as number of layers of protection. You should also look for face masks with high-density material and multiple layers. The addition to the inner and outer layers, the inclusion of a non-woven polypropylene layer or a lab tested filtration layer will result in a more effective facemask, as it will help to ensure that the mask stops potentially harmful particles such as viruses and pollutant air particles.
The efficacy of the filtration provided by the filtration layer of the mask is important. Depending on the materials, filters will let through a certain % of particles of a certain size. The best face masks will provide a Nelson Labs or equivalent report, that will clearly show the filtration capabilities of the mask. Look for masks with filters that have Viral Filtration Efficiency certified at 99% at 0.1 microns. For reference, pollutant particles can be as small as 2.5 micons, and viruses such as COVID19 average 0.125 microns and can be as small as 0.06 microns.
Face masks need to fit properly to be effective. However, there has to be a balance between ensuring a tight fit, to prevent particles going around the mask and your comfort. A range of sizes for different face types and a strong nose wire will help to ensure a tight fit, without being too uncomfortable.
The inner layer of the facemask should be comfortable to the face. If you are looking to wear your mask regularly and for long periods, it is worth investing in an antiviral face mask that removes odour, keeping the mask fresh and reducing how often you need to wash it.
An ear loop that allows for adjustment will help you to ensure that your antiviral facemask is tight enough to ensure fewer particles can get around the mask, without causing discomfort.
Our current ViralOff facemask ticks a lot of the boxes of an effective reusable face mask and can be considered a bona fide antiviral face mask due to the use of Polygiene’s ViralOff technology.
At present, Polygiene ViralOff is one of only few robust and credible technologies to reduce viruses, including COVID 19, on reusable face masks. However, not all masks are created equal and different manufacturers emphasise different points that ultimately determine how effective the mask will be.
In addition to antiviral certification, you should look out for facemasks that offer a high filtration %, use non-woven layers and are adjustable so that you can ensure a tight and snug fit. Although no facemask can give you 100% guarantee of preventing infection, you should not settle for second best when your safety is concerned.