Is it true that neck gaiters are *worse* than no mask at all?!

Masks Staying Safe

A: Probably not. If you like neck gaiters, breathe easy 🙂.

Fabric (tighter weave) and fit are the more important variables, and wearing a face covering is almost certainly better than nothing at all. Double-up the layering to be safe.
“Gaiter-gate” as it’s been lovingly dubbed, emerged last week from coverage of a small study testing a new method for the efficacy of different types of masks.

The pros and cons of this study were covered beautifully in a post by our friend Your Local Epidemiologist.

TL;DR: the study used some new technology (lasers & smartphones) as a proof of concept for evaluating the efficacy of masks, but it didn’t actually run a big study controlling for a variety of factors.

The authors themselves state: “Again, we want to note that the mask tests performed here (one speaker for all masks and four speakers for selected masks) should serve only as a demonstration. Inter-subject variations are to be expected, for example due to difference in physiology, mask fit, head position, speech pattern, and such.” The fleece gaiter was tested by only one speaker.
Many headlines ran with the finding that gaiters let through more particles (possibly by breaking larger ones up into smaller ones), but leading aerosol researcher Dr. Linsey Marr was skeptical and quickly mobilized experiments in her lab with more conventional methods.

While this work was done recently in response to Gaiter-gate and thus not yet published in pre-print or peer review, a presentation of the results is available here.


• Neck gaiters provide similar performance to other cloth masks tested on manikins.
• In general, these types of face coverings provide outward protection of ~50% for 1 µm aerosols and at least 80-90% for 5 µm aerosols.
• A doubled-over neck gaiter blocks >90% of aerosols of size 0.5-5 µm.
• The neck gaiters block 100% of droplets >20 µm from reaching the face of a manikin 30 cm away.
• Inward protection by the neck gaiters was not tested, but results with cloth masks suggest that inward protection will be lower by ~10 percentage points.

Bottom line: Don’t throw the gaiter away with the bath water, but double it up to be safe.

For fabric masks including gaiters, we know that two layers are better than one, and a snug fitting mask with no gaps is best.

And as always, remember that masks alone are not fully protective– avoiding crowded indoor spaces and physical distancing is still key, with masks providing an important extra “layer” of protection.

Love, The Nerdy Girls
“Save the gaiters!”
New York Times


Dr. Linsey Marr’s gaiter thread on twitter

Link to original FB post