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The topic of face masks seems to have hit most households all over the world in recent weeks; should we buy one? Which respirator masks do we need? Which masks can help protect us from Covid19? Here’s a short guide to explain the differences in the masks available (also see our half face masks and full face masks).

FFP stands for Filtering half Face Masks, each mask conforms to the EU regulation EN 149: 2001 the masks are then split into 3 categories determined by their protection level: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. Masks are part of personal protective equipment that are worn to protect our lungs from anything hazardous in the air, this could be from particles and dust, to aerosols and smoke. 

You will notice that each half mask has a different APF and OEL- these are the protection limits of the masks. 

OEL (Occupational Exposure Limit value) refers to the amount of toxic substance that is allowed in air within a workplace.

The APF (Assigned Protection Factor) indicates the factor by which the wearer is protected from hazardous substances. For example a mask with an APF of 4 will reduce the hazard of the wearer breathing in toxic substances by 4 times. 

FFP1 Mask

The FFP1 is the most basic of masks. They are usually used to protect during DIY tasks such as sanding, for example. This mask can protect against non-toxic substances such as brick dust, cement, lime stone, and pollen but it won’t be enough protection if the substance is toxic - a higher protection would be needed.

  • 4 X APF
  • 4 X OEL

 FFP 1 Mask


FFP2 Mask (n95)

The FFP2 mask offers more protection than the FFP1. It is the European standard equivalent of the US N95 standard and recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the outbreaks or SARS, corona virus and avian flu. It offers protection from deleterious substances in the air such as lead dust, as well as aerosols, smoke, it is therefore a popular mask in mining and metal industries, agriculture, and is the go-to mask for healthcare professionals to protect against influenza. 

  • 10 X APF
  • 12 X OEL



FFP3 Mask

The FFP3 offers the highest protection from breathing in hazardous substances in the environment. The mask can protect from a variety of toxins, such as asbestos, bacteria, viruses and are often used by healthcare professionals when handling hazardous pharmaceutical chemicals. They have the highest safety standards. 

  • 20 X APF
  • 50 X OEL

 FFP3 N95

Difference Between FFP1 vs FFP2 vs FFP3 Masks

In today's world, protecting yourself from airborne particles is more important than ever. FFP masks, also known as filtering facepiece respirators, offer a reliable way to filter out dust, smoke, and even some harmful microorganisms. However, with different FFP classifications (FFP1, FFP2, FFP3), choosing the right mask can feel confusing. 

This guide will break down the key distinctions between FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 masks. We'll explore FFP respirators protection level, fit, and design and how to select the most appropriate mask for your specific needs. By understanding these differences, you can make an informed decision and ensure you have the right level of protection.


The reusability depends on the specific mask and filtration level. Generally, FFP3 masks are not designed for reuse due to potential filter clogging from heavy contaminant exposure. FFP1 masks, on the other hand, might be reusable a few times if not visibly soiled or damaged. FFP2 masks fall somewhere in between, with reusability depending on manufacturer guidelines and usage conditions.

Protection Level

FFP1 masks offer the lowest level of protection, filtering at least 80% of airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns. FFP2 masks provide a significant step up, filtering at least 94% of particles down to 0.6 microns. It’s best fit for respiratory protection and disease control.  Finally, FFP3 filtering mask boast the highest filtration efficiency (at least 99%) and can even filter out some very hazardous materials like asbestos and certain radioactive particles. They deliver maximum protection.

Fit and Design

FFP masks come in various shapes and sizes to ensure a close fit around the wearer's nose and mouth. This tight seal is crucial for optimal protection, as any gaps can allow unfiltered air to enter. Some masks feature an adjustable nose bridge for a personalised fit, while others might have an elasticated strap system.  

Quality Features

When choosing an FFP mask, look for specific quality features that ensure optimal performance and user comfort. Consider features like a comfortable inner lining and a secure head strap design to minimise pressure points during wear. Also, focus on the purpose and the environment. Are you using it in an infectious environment or on a construction site?

What is the Difference Between FFP Masks and Surgical Masks?

While both FFP masks and surgical masks offer some level of protection against airborne particles, they serve distinct purposes and provide different levels of filtration. FFP masks are designed for superior filtration. Surgical face mask, on the other hand, primarily block splashes and fungal spores.

Moreover, FFP masks primarily protect the wearer from inhaling airborne contaminants and very fine particles. Their tight fit and high filtration efficiency make them suitable for environments with dust, fumes, and even some hazardous materials. Surgical masks, in contrast, are designed to protect others from the wearer's respiratory droplets. They're commonly used in medical settings to prevent the spread of germs during procedures or by individuals who might be sick.

Can FFP Masks be Cleaned, Disinfected and Reused?

While reusability can be tempting, it depends on the FFP mask type. FFP1 masks, labelled as "R," can be reused. FFP2 masks might be reusable to a limited extent but follow manufacturer instructions carefully regarding storage, inspection, and how many times you can use them. Damage or wear and tear always means it's time for a new mask. FFP3 masks are single-use for hazardous materials – disinfection can harm the filter and compromise safety. Remember, when in doubt, prioritise your safety and dispose of any questionable FFP mask responsibly.


By understanding the differences between FFP mask types, you can make informed decisions to protect yourself from airborne hazards. Remember, FFP masks offer superior protection but prioritise a tight fit and proper use. When unsure about reusability, consult the manufacturer's instructions or opt for a fresh mask. For everyday situations, a surgical mask might suffice. Ultimately, the right mask choice depends on the specific environment and potential risks involved.

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