The Truth Behind Antibacterial/Antiviral Face Masks. Is Yours Really Working?

woman wearing a face mask

Although with all the advancement and increasing population, the pollution load of the world is enormously increasing. Still, not many of us were using or coming in contact with any kind of face masks until this breakout of SARS-COV-2. The severity and intensity of this COVID-19 and how the mighty earth crumbles before it has changed all the perspectives about daily life. The use of an anti virus face mask is one of them, according to Craft Cadence. With this change, however, we have come across many varieties, fabrics, and types of face masks. Not all of them are efficient against the novel coronavirus or any of the viruses out there. And the irony is that these are not even antibacterial masks. So how one should know which of these are truly protecting and which ones are a fraud. We are skipping the discussion of all the most commonly used non-woven fabrics which filter the microbial and thus somehow reduce the exposure. Here is a brief review of modern material and fabrics used in the masks to make these of antibacterial or antiviral characteristics, and tests performed on these to cross-check their effectiveness.

Metal-based nanomaterials are proven as antiviral substances in many studies. Many metal and metal oxides of silver, gold, copper, titanium, and zinc are included in the list.

A silver-based nanoparticle is a classic and high demand for anti-pathogenic performers. These can simply attach to the outer layers of cells and prevent their penetration to the host cell. A study proved the efficacy of tannic acid-modified silver nanoparticles against viruses by inhibiting their adhesion to host cells. In addition to these nanoparticles, some other compounds of silver were also effective against the viral activity. Ag2S nanoparticles were shown to be effective against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus up to 99% efficacy with acceptable biological safety. It was also found to be effective against other RNA viruses. Some other silver compounds such as AgNo3, silver acesulfame, and silver bis(citrate) germinate are also proved to be of excellent anti-viral killers.

ISO 18184:2019 is the standard test for the determination of the antiviral activity of textile fabric and other products. The products may include woven and knitted fabrics, yarn, fibers, braids, and in our case, antiviral face masks. According to this test, a textile has to prove its antiviral activity up to a 99% reduction of viral load in two hours.  Polygiene ViralOff can reduce the viruses by 99% as per the standardization of International ISO Standard 18184:2019. The test use virus of Influenza A strain (H3N2); an enveloped virus, and a feline calicivirus; a non-enveloped virus. The active ingredient against viruses is silver chloride and it can be used to skin as it does not interfere with the natural microbial flora of the skin. This polygiene stays fresh technology is durable and is long-lasting. Give the rest of two hours and the product is ready to be used again. It can be used in various products but especially in face masks, scrubs, personal protective equipment for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

Regarding the antimicrobial properties and in pursuit of attaining them on the textiles, various researches and studies have been done. In one of the studies, sodium pentaborate pentahydrate and triclosan are applied to fabrics especially cotton to have antimicrobial properties. A textile treated with 3% sodium pentborate pentahydrate, 7% Glucapon, and 0.03% triclosan attains good antibacterial as well as antiviral activity. This was tested against various bacteria and adenovirus type 5 and poliovirus type 1. Metal salt solutions of copper (CuSO4) and zinc (ZnSO4) are effective against many species of bacteria including S. aureus, klebsiella pneumoniae, and MRSA. These tests and results were reported in a study and they concluded these treatments to be very effective against bacterial activity when applied to cellulose fabrics. The growth of Trichophyton mentagrophytes and S. aureus was inhibited by applying zinc pyrithione on cotton fabric. Different synthetic fibers and cellulosic fabrics treated with nano-sized silver colloidal solutions are investigated and proved to effective against S. aureus and K. pneumoniae. The antibacterial activity in these cases was still maintained even after multiple laundering sometimes even after 50 launderings. In another research, they were successful in making antibacterial graphene masks which were laser-induced. These face masks were proven to be of 80% efficacy against bacteria and can be amazingly enhanced to 99.998% after exposing material 10 minutes to sunlight. These are low-cost masks and can replace non-biodegradable masks (having the problem of disposing of). It was tested against two species of human coronavirus and shows 90% efficiency in the first 5 minutes and 100% efficiency in 10 minutes under sunlight. There are plans to test these on Covid-19 soon enough. There is a standard method to check the condition and antibacterial activity of the graphene face masks by a fabricated hydroelectric generator. The change in moisture-induced voltage is measured and results have shown that the more the bacteria on the surface of the mask, the lower the voltage will be. This method may be used as reference only and is not an exact one.

International Biodeterioration Research Group (IBGR) Tier 1 Textile method is used to test and describe the antibacterial of textiles that are treated with such mentioned compounds to attain disinfectant properties. The antimicrobial property can also be analyzed and assessed by the standard disk diffusion assay. It can be evaluated by measuring the zone of inhibition of tested organisms.

With all this discussion, it is derived that there are multiple advancements in producing such new materials to be effective against bacteria and viruses. And there are methods to cross-check their authenticity. 


Have you ever come across any such product such as an antibacterial/ antiviral face mask?

If yes, which was it?

And have you ever tried to know about the lab tests involved?