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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
TSI Portacount is the best fit-testing machine in the world. (US Army recently purchased 65 sets of the same TSI Portacount fit-tester http://itbriefing.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=571559)
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
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, Aqicn.org and members of the public to monitor the entire process of the fit-test demo.
Fit test demo with PortaCount professional fit-tester
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 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+.
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).
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.
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).
Bertrand Jenner was setting up an exhibition in Mumbai Exhibition Center. The dust and smoke inside the exhibition hall is not much better than the traffic pollution outside in the street. He purchased a Totobobo mask and this is the time to use it. Bertrand is so kind to send us the following photos and comments:
2013-09-15 Sent by Bertrand JENNER from Mumbai
“I finally got my hands on a new mask and I was able to mould it. See the results. I’m in Mumbai this week, so I can really appreciate the mask :D”
“after 1h in hot Exhibition Center during setup, I can tell you that the mask is incredible !
You can share the pictures no problems.
This filter has been used just for 1h…”
[Click here if you cannot view youtube from China]
Some of our user’s feedback stated that it would be great to add a nose clip to the Totobobo Mask, especially for people with a prominent nose. These users are experiencing small gaps between the mask and their nose’s bridge. However, a nose clip is not a reliable solution in the long run for reusable masks. Prototype testings have showed that the clip breaks or loses it’s rigidity after repetitive bending and will break eventually.
The following video shows how to re-mould the Totobobo Mask, using hot and cold water. The hot water helps to soften the body of the mask, while the cold water helps to harden the mask after reshaping it to the desired shape. This method can be done over and over again, there fore, making it a more reliable solution.
The heat treatment can be applied to any parts of the mask (e.g. the chin), not only the nose area. The possibilities are limitless. You may need to try moulding the mask several times to achieve the best fit.
Moulding feature further enhances protection and comfort for the user.
Better face fitment = lesser gaps = better protection
PM2.5, a very fine airborne particle, is smaller than 2.5 microns which can be inhaled and travel deeply into our lungs, which will then enter our bloodstream. These particles causes micro inflammation and hardens our blood vessels. Recent studies have showed that the PM2.5 not only triggers diseases in our lungs and other respiratory organs, but also triggers cardiovascular diseases and strokes. Common surgical masks or even a poor fitting N95 mask won’t be of much help due to the cunningness of the PM2.5. Ensuring a secured face fit is the first fundamental step towards respiratory protection.
Totobobo Mask have three key features to aid you in obtaining a optimal face fit.
Sizing : Totobobo Mask is the first and only mask that allows its user to cut to fit. You don’t have to risk over cutting the mask. Download this template to test the size using a paper dummy first, before proceeding to cut the actual mask.
Fine tuning with heat moulding : The heat moulding process makes it possible for the user to fine tune the fitment of the mask. Small gaps around the nose or under the chin? No worries! Just re-mould the mask and you’ll be able to eliminate, or at the least, minimize these gaps. You can re-do this step as many times as you like! Remember to not use boiling to re-mould the mask, otherwise you’ll risk destroying the mask. Use warm to hot water around 80C instead.
Another point to note, a small gap occurring during exhalation does not affect the effectiveness of the protection, in fact, it may be beneficial as it helps to release exhaust gases quickly. What you need to check is whether the seal is closed tightly when you inhale, due to the negative pressure while inhaling. Ideally, you should adjust the straps so there there are small gaps to speed up exhaling and feeling comfortable at the same time.
Visual Seal Check (VSC) : Using the transparent property of the Totobobo Mask, you can check if the mask is touching the areas below the chin, forming a good deal. If the seal is not optimal, you may fine tune the cutting and moulding of the mask, or simple adjusting the position and tension of the strap to get a better fit.
If a mask is not comfortable to wear, the user will use it less often, so the chances of it being functional is generally lesser as well.
The heat moulding adjustment allows the mask to be re adjusted to fit your face profile closely. A good fit is beneficial as it not only provides a good seal, but you’ll also feel more comfortable wearing it and also not forgetting, you can loosen the tension on the straps as well. During exhalation, the internal pressure pushes the mask and forces the seal to be broken, releasing the air quickly. During inhalation, the process creates a “sucking” motion due to the negative pressure, which closes up the gaps, forcing air to enter only by the filters. The Totobobo mask functions like a one-way valve, without it being a valve physically. Some users described it as “The mask is breathing with me.”