Mask fitting demo at Medic Drugstore


Participants of the mask fitting and validating demo

Participants of the mask fitting and validating demo

Due to the recent haze situation in Singapore, we receive many questions from customers regarding how to fit the mask. This is especially important for children because their lungs are not yet fully developed and are more vulnerable. Wearing an ill fitting mask gives a false sense of security; unaware users may expose themselves in unnecessary risks.

Upon customer’s request, we conducted a Mask Fitting Demo session at the Medic Drugstore at Tanjong Pagar Plaza. Medic Drugstore is our retail partner in Singapore since 2009.

First of all, we need to understand why mask fitting is important. The working principle of a mask (negative pressure respirator) is to seal-off mouth and nose such that the only way the polluted air can get into the mask is through the air filters. If the mask is not fitted properly, ambient air can easily bypass the filters and enter breathing zone directly. Henceforth wearing a poorly fitted mask is similar to not wearing a mask. On the other hand, a well fitted mask allows the users to breathe in cleaned air.

Totobobo mask fitting procedure:

1. Pre-test* – To demonstrate poor fit leads to poor respiratory protection.

2. ReShape to improve the fit – This is an iterative process between watermark seal check and reshaping.

3. Final test* – To demonstrate the high protection performance of Totobobo mask when a good seal is achieved.

*A professional respirator fit-test equipment, TSI Portacount Pro+ 8038, was used to validate the protection performance. Portacount Pro is the gold standard in the industry for respirator testing.

Two important features (unique to Totobobo mask) we demonstrated during the Mask-fitting session:  The Watermark Seal Check (WSC) and the ReShape function.

Watermark Seal Check (WSC):


Watermark shows up where the mask touches the face, also where the seal is

Watermark Seal Check (WSC) is a patented feature of Totobobo mask. It allows users to check the seal by means of “Watermark”, easily and accurately. The “Watermark” refers to the area of the mask changes from translucent to transparent when the mask touches wet skin. A continuous watermark loop around nose and mouth indicates a completed seal.

  • First wet face with water, then put on the mask.
  • Check the edge areas of the mask whether a continuous watermark loop appears around nose and mouth.

Tips: Sometimes by adjusting the straps (shorter or longer), making it a little tighter or looser, or moving the mask up or down can shift the watermark and change the seal condition.

adjusting earloop

adjust Totobobo earloop by looping the strap around the filter and in between the two small wings


ReShape the mask

Totobobo mask is made of a special polymer which allows re-shaping when it is heated up by hot water or hair dryer. Most of leakage problems occur below chin and around nose bridge can be solved by ReShaping. Here are two approaches to eliminate the gaps in these areas.

ReShape the bottom of Totobobo mask to fit the chin

ReShape to fit the chin: Press a finger on the fold line against table top, hold it for 10 seconds.

To eliminate gap below chin – A new mask usually doesn’t fit a face perfectly due to a fold-line formed whilst flat packed. The fold line causes a gap below chin. To eliminate this gap:

  • Dip the mask quickly into and out of hot water a few times (70-80°C, NO boiling water which will damage the mask permanently)
  • Press a finger on the fold line against tabletop, hold it for 10 seconds.
  • Release to check if the fold line diminishes. If the fold line is still obvious, the water may not be hot enough. Redo with hotter water. The lower part of the mask should have been widened up.
Moulding the nose area and at the same time open up the Totobobo mask to transform it into a 3D shape

Moulding the nose area and at the same time open up the Totobobo mask to transform it into a 3D shape

To eliminate gaps near nose bridge – With the help of Watermark, take note of the location of the gaps (translucent area) next to nose bridge.

  • Dip the mask quickly into and out of hot water a few times (70-80°C, NO boiling water which will damage the mask permanently)
  • Hold the bottom (chin part) of the mask with one hand, use the other hand to help shape the nose bridge area (use thumb and index finger to press at the points where the gaps are observed).
  • Hold the mask in the new shape for a minute or two to fix the shape.
  • Try the newly shaped mask on user’s face with the WSC method. You may need to do this back and forth a few times in order to eliminate all the gaps. But once you achieve it, the new shape can be retained for subsequent uses.

Below is an overview of the “Mask fitting and validation process” for your reference (Click to enlarge).

Totobobo mask fitting demo process




Totobobo demo in Beijing and Shanghai

Swanport cafe in Soho Galaxy at Chaoyang, Beijing

Swanport cafe in Soho Galaxy at Chaoyang, Beijing

Muren of Totobobo Tmall share a presentation about PM2.5

Muren of Totobobo Tmall share a presentation about PM2.5

Francis shared his story about Totobobo mask

Francis shared his story about Totobobo mask, Robin from Totobobo Tmall is providing realtime translation

2014-09-16 Swanport Cafe, Chaoyang District, Beijing

The demo in Beijing was a great success on a Tuesday evening, thanks to Robin and Muren from Totobobo Beijing and the helpful staff from Swan Port Cafe. The session started off with a brief introduction of PM2.5 by Muren, he explained what PM2.5 is, and how it affects our health. Francis, the designer of Totobobo mask, shared how he came up with the idea of a customizable and reusable respirator mask out of the SARS crisis in 2003. The fit-test demo started after a short tea break.

What is “Fit-test”? Why it is important?

Fit-testing is a procedure to determine if a tight seal can be achieved when the user don a respirator mask. This is important because the quality of the seal affects the overall protection against PM2.5 and other airborne contamination. In fact, the NIOSH N95 standard requires a proper fit-test to be conducted before anyone starts using a respirator for the first time. During the fit-test, a particle counting instrument is used to accurately measure respirator fit by comparing the particle concentration in the surrounding air with the particle concentration inside the respirator. The ratio of these concentrations is called the Fit-factor (FF). For N95 mask, a minimum Fit-factor of 100 is required in order to pass the fit test.

Fit factor formular

Fit factor formular

TSI Portacount is the best fit-testing machine in the world. (US Army recently purchased 65 sets of the same TSI Portacount fit-tester

The working principle of the PortaCount 8083 is straight forward: there are two flexible tubes coming out of the machine, one is to draw the air and measure the concentration of particles inside the mask. The second tube is open ended and is used to measure the particle concentration in the surrounding area. The PortaCount fit-tester calculates the particle concentration inside and outside of the mask and report the ratio, or the Fit-factor, in realtime. The higher the Fit-factor, the better is the protection effect of the mask. With the Portacount machine, Francis was able to demonstrate quantitatively how the quality of the seal and the filters can have a great impact on the protection effectiveness of a respirator.

Preparing for the test

Francis exchange ideas with the VIPs.

Francis exchange ideas with the VIPs.

Before the fit-test, a “Daily check” on the machine was performed to assure that the ambience air quality is suitable for the test and the machine is in proper operation condition. Amongst the audience, there were members from the China Consumer Association (中国消费者协会), National labor supplies Quality Supervision and Inspection Center (Beijing) 国家劳保用品质量监督检验中心(北京), Austria Embassy, TimeOut Beijing, and members of the public to monitor the entire process of the fit-test demo.

Fit test demo with PortaCount professional fit-tester

Faye testing Totobobo mask

Faye testing Totobobo mask

The perfect shape for Faye

The perfect shape for Faye

Fit-factor is only 3.3, the result of the cosmetic cotton pad is not convincing

Fit-factor is only 3.3, the result of the cosmetic cotton pad is not convincing

The first Fit-test of Totobobo mask was performed on Faye, a Chinese lady with a slender face shape. Francis first tested a pair of “fake filters” made of cosmetic cotton pad. The “fake filters” looks nearly the same as the original, but the resulting Fit-Factor is only 3.3 which means on a day with AQI 500, the cotton pad can ideally bring it down to 150, just not good enough. After changing into a pair of F96 filters, the Fit-factor shoot up to 150+. In AQI 500 day, ideally it can bring it down to 4-, better than the air you will get in Switzerland!

The Fit-factor shoot up to 150+ after changing into a pair of F96 filters

The Fit-factor shoot up to 150+ after changing into a pair of F96 filters

The second participant was a young girl (Guo Yao) with a fuller face. Francis first conduct the test with the same Totobobo mask without modification. The water-mark-method shown that the seal was not perfect and the initial result was relatively low (below 50). However, after Reshape the mask with a hair-dryer and after a good water-mark is obtained, the Fit-factor reported by the Portacount machine come up to 200+.

The perfect shape to fit  Guo Yao after ReShaping the mask

The perfect shape to fit Guo Yao after ReShaping the mask

Guo Yao received a new Totobobo mask from Sharon, Managing Director of Totobobo mask.

Guo Yao received a new Totobobo mask from Sharon, Managing Director of Totobobo mask.

Francis using the "Water-mark" method to predict the fitting of the mask

Francis using the “Water-mark” method to predict the fitting of the mask

Francis also demonstrated the effect of good and poor seal, by the “water mark method”. He applied a bit of water around the nose bridge area. When the matt color mask surface touching the wet skin, it changes to transparent (water-mark).

Barbara testing Totobobo mask

Barbara testing Totobobo mask

The third participant was Barbara Grosse from the Austria Embassy. It took Francis few rounds of ReShaping the mask in order to obtain a good water-mark seal. The final Fit-factor was also in the range of 150~200+. All three ladies passed with a clear margin from the minimum requirement of 100 (for N95 mask).

Fit-test demo based on only three users is obviously not statistically sound. However, we have done this nearly a hundred times privately and this is the first time we perform the fit-test in front of a public group.

After Beijing, we went to Shanghai ArtBike to conduct another fit-test demo with their customers. We came to similar observation as in Beijing.

Fit-test at ArtBike, Shanghai

Fit-test at ArtBike, Shanghai


Some interesting facts we can draw from all the fit-tests:

1. Totobobo mask can be ReShaped to fit a wide range of face shapes.

  • The same Totobobo mask was used through out the fitting on all three ladies, with significantly different face shapes and all managed to obtain high Fit-factors above 150.
  • Many more fit-tests on different users shows the ReShape function can be applied to a wide range of users.

2. The “Water mark” method is reliable to help ensure face fit and protection.

  • There was a strong correlation between the water-mark-method and the PortaCount results
  • When the water-mark method showed the seal was not perfect, the corresponding Fit-factor dropped  to below 50 and sometimes down to single digit value.
  • When a clear water mark was formed around the nose bridge and the face, the corresponding Fit-factor shot up to 150+

3. Overall protection against PM2.5 require good quality filter AND a good face-mask seal

  • When cosmetic cotton pad is used in place of the Totobobo filters, the Fit-factor dropped to only 3.3.
  • When the water-mark shows there is a leak between the mask and the face, the Fit-factor dropped to below 50 and sometime single digit.
  • The resulting Fit-factor is consistently good (150+) when Totobobo filter is used and the water mark result is positive.

Above points 1&2 are the strengths and the weaknesses of Totobobo mask, ReShape (and cutting) makes Totobobo mask the most versatile solution to fit a wide range of users, including children and adult. But ReShaping and cutting the mask is more complicated than bending a metal nose clip. With the “Water mark” fit-test method, you can be sure that when the water mark seal up your nose and mouth, the mask is giving you high level of protection. In contrary, ensuring face-seal is much more tricky for many popular masks on the market, as a detail research concluded by Tongji Medical College (Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China) suggested: Fitting Characteristics of N95 Filtering-Facepiece Respirators Used Widely in China . 8 out of 10 popular mask can only fit less than 10% of the 54 Chinese test subjects.

On the other hand, these two features are the limiting factors for Totobobo mask to gain certification approval. It is confirmed that the current testing protocol does not allow  mask samples to be reshaped,  cut, or perform a water-mark check before the fit. These may well be the reasons why Totobobo mask did not perform well in the published review of 37 masks by Chinese Consumer Association earlier this year. Obtaining the certification is an important step for marketing purposes, but for now we put our focus on the practical protection that can be measured by the professional fit-testing machine (PortaCount 8083).


Related links:

Beijing TimeOut

Totobobo Fit-test demo on Weibo (1)

Totobobo Fit-test demo on Weibo (2)

Testing Totobobo mask with Portacount 8083 (video of entire process)

How to ReShape Totobobo mask?


Demonstration of Totobobo mask to D&T teachers

Francis was invited by the Curriculum Planning and Development Division of the MOE to give a talk to a group of D&T teachers about the design process of the Totobobo mask. He demonstrated how to put on and take off the Totobobo mask during the presentation.

Here is the video of the demonstration:

“I was motivated to find a solution to protect my children after the SARS incidents.” Francis explained. “None of the N95 mask fit children because they were all designed and certified for adult in occupational context.” To ensure protection, the mask must fit the user’s face snugly and forming a good seal. Most people do not realize that and thought they are safe by wearing an N95 mask. In fact they need to validate the seal by going through a fit-test by qualified facilitator and with specialized equipment to check the seal.
A study in Prince of Wales Hospital suggested 1 in 4 health care worker thought they have a good seal but in fact it’s not.
Another study Respiratory Donning in Post-Hurricane New Orleans (published on the US CDC website in May 2007) further highlight the challenge to achieve a good seal. The researchers found 76% participants were not able to demonstrate proper donning for a good seal and their protection has been compromised.

After experiemented with hundreds of hand made prototypes, the solution that Francis came up was remarkably simple- construct the mask with transparent material and you can immediately see where it touches the skin, or not. To validate this principle he compare the results of fit-tested Totobobo mask with the visual-check prediction. The result was more than 90% accuracy, much higher predictability than any other mask available in the market. In a practical sense, the Totobobo mask come with it’s built in fit-tester.

D&T teachers sitting behind the early hand made prototypes and benchmark masks

D&T teachers sitting behind the early hand made prototypes and benchmark masks

To cater for the face size of small children, Francis developed a unique method to attached the strap onto the mask. Different from all competitive product the strap of Totobobo mask is not attached to the edge of the mask, but away from it. This new method allows the mask to be trimmed to easily fit all children from 5 years old. Such approach would appear unthinkable because in a normal mask design you would cut off the strap as well. But looking through the hand made prototypes the solution seems to be logical- Francis has been cutting a lot of masks to fit his children!

The D&T teachers and the guests were impressed by the innovation. “Can I buy the Totobobo mask for my students in Art & craft class?” asked one of the teachers. “Sure, and you will get a special education discount too.” Francis answered with a smile.

How to put on Totobobo mask?

Edited: 2018-11-20

How to put on your Totobobo mask?
With the new earloop design, you can put on your Totobobo mask just like a regular surgical mask, easy and comfortable plus the extra sealed-protection of Totobobo mask.

put on Totobobo mask is as easy as a surgical mask.

put on Totobobo mask is as easy as a surgical mask.

If you don’t like the earloop style, you can also extend the earloop and connect them at the back of your head with the included “adaptor”, as shown in the picture below:

convert earloop style to head strap style by the adaptor

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