We’ve recently had a few folks reach out to us regarding a Duke School of Medicine study on the efficacy of face masks. To answer those questions, we’ve put together a few points of discussion that we think may be helpful when it comes to selecting a face covering from the VOORMI collection.
While we’ve seen some bold headlines referencing this study (ie. “Using a Neck Gaiter as a mask may be worse than not wearing one”), it’s important to note that the Duke study was focused on the development of a test method – rather than a comprehensive study of mask performance. To quote the report itself:
In this application, we do not attempt a comprehensive survey of all possible mask designs or a systematic study of all use cases. We merely demonstrated our method on a variety of commonly available masks and mask alternatives with one speaker, and a subset of these masks were tested with four speakers.
In this study, one of the masks selected (listed as a “Neck Fleece”) allowed a large number of droplets to pass through the material compared to the other products studied in the limited trials performed. While we can not necessarily tell EXACTLY what this product was, it appears to be a single layer synthetic (likely polyester or nylon), tight fitting neck gaiter. We believe there’s three important factors NOT STUDIED that do not correlate to the broader class of ‘neck gaiters’ on whole – nor the VOORMI Everyday Gaiter.
Those who have worn a cheap fleece vs. a technical fleece built from true performance fabrics know the difference that advanced textile construction can make. Knit structure, ‘tightness’ of the construction, and finishing techniques all play a major factor in how ‘windproof’ a textile can be. Putting a single-layer/simple knit structure up against a VOORMI multi-layered complex co-knitted fabric (like our VOORMI DUAL SURFACE Precision Blended Wool) is akin to putting an F150 (0-60 in 5.1sec) up against a Honda Civic (0-60 in 6.8sec) and claiming trucks are faster than cars – all while the Ferrari sits in the garage.
When it comes to ‘slowing down’ the speed at which a spray of water hits a fabric, air space is everything. To demonstrate this, hold a spray bottle directly up against any fabric and pull the trigger. Do the same thing from 2” away, and you get a very different result. It’s for this reason that we designed the everyday gaiter with a tight fit around the bridge of the nose (to hold it in place), and a progressively looser fit the closer to the mouth you get. The goal – to use ergonomic patterning to create enough space to dissipate the energy of anything trying to get through
Based on the product photos from the Duke study, it appears that the neck gaiter tested was built from a common synthetic yarn (ie.. polyester or nylon). These are ‘smooth’ man-made yarns that leave large spaces in between the knitted areas. In contrast, our VOORMI Everyday Gaiter is built from a wool foundation. As a ‘hairy’ yarn, the fibers themselves help act as filters. This Is the same reason wool is often used as a filtration media.
In summary, we applaud any and all work to better understand the performance of the many mask and mask alternatives on the market. While we are careful to ‘overinterpret’ the results of this latest study, we are compelled by the development of the test method itself, and look forward to exploring it in the context of our complex, tightly knitted, natural fiber based structures. Additionally, as a direct-to-consumer brand with agile USA production – we will continue to push the innovation envelope at every turn, while maintaining a USA supply chain.
If you'd like to learn more about the limitations of the Duke study, here's two articles we've found a few good articles to reference.
The team at VOORMI