New research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reemphasized the importance of well-fitting, multilayered masks in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Lab experiments showed wearing a tightly woven cloth mask over a surgical mask reduced the wearer’s exposure to potentially infectious aerosols by as much as 90%.

Here’s how to improve the fit of your mask to protect yourself and others.


  1. Use a mask with a nose wire to minimize gaps between your face and the mask
  2. Knot the ear loops of the surgical mask and tuck in the excess material so the sides stay close to your face
  3. Use a mask with multiple layers or wear a surgical mask under another mask made of tightly woven cloth, such as cotton


  • Don’t layer a KN95 with another mask, or double layer surgical masks
  • Don’t use gaiters or bandannas made from loosely woven fabric
  • Don’t wear a mask with vents, which allow your breath to escape and expose others
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

KN95 Masks

KN95 masks are a type of filtering respirator, often foreign-made, similar to N95 masks commonly used in the United States in medical settings. Authentic KN95 masks are designed to meet N95 standards.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are disposable and made of non-woven material. They often include a nose wire.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention