Understanding The Difference

  • Surgical – loose-fitting, protect against big droplets, designed to protect patient from wearer's respiratory emissions
    • Commonly referred to as medical, procedural, dental, isolation masks
    • Manufacturers of surgical masks must demonstrate that their mask is at least as good as a mask currently on the market to obtain FDA clearance
    • In the US, each hospital is responsible for vetting and using products that meet their standards following NIOTSH recommended guidelines vs in China where regulations are more stringent
  • Respirator – tight-fitting seal, protect against small airborne particles, used in industrial and health care settings

(Source: CDC)
Surgical Mask Disposable Face Mask
Testing and Approval Cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Not cleared by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Intended Use and Purpose Fluid resistant and provides the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. Protects and patient from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. Helps protect others from the wearer’s respiratory emissions.  Source control in the spread of airborne illnesses.
Face Seal Fit Loose-fitting Loose-fitting
Fit Testing Requirement No No
User Seal Check Requirement No No
Filtration Does Not provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles and is not considered respiratory protection Does Not provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles and is not considered respiratory protection
Leakage Leakage occurs around the edge of the mask when user inhales Leakage occurs around the edge of the mask when user inhales