Cambridge Mask Review – The Best Reusable Mask?

Cambridge Mask Pro

When I first moved to Korea, the Cambridge Mask Pro was my mask of choice for years. At that point I didn’t know much about masks and Cambridge Mask is one of the most beginner-friendly masks on the market. It’s also one of the most well-known.

However, despite wearing the mask for years I’ve never actually done a full review of the mask. While I have done a comparison between Cambridge Mask and Vogmask, I never got around to reviewing the mask itself. 

In this post today I want to give my thoughts on Cambridge Mask as well as its strengths and weaknesses. This is my full review of the Cambridge mask. Does the mask hold up compared to some of the other popular masks on the market?

I will focus on what I believe to be the most important aspects in order – technology (filtration), sizing & adjustability, design, and models. I think then conclude the post by mentioning for whom the mask might be a good choice and vice versa.

Please note that there are two models of Cambridge Mask – the Cambridge Mask Basic and the Cambridge Mask Pro. This review will focus on the pro model. Both masks are largely similar, except the Pro has a longer lifespan and makes use of a valve.


This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my affiliate disclaimer. I was NOT sent a product for review, this product was purchased by myself. All opinions expressed in this post are my honest thoughts. I only recommend products that I believe in.

Information on this blog is for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information herein with other sources. Furthermore, this information is not intended to replace medical advice from professionals. This website assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information and information is subject to change without notice.


Filtration Technology

The most important aspect of any mask is the filter. The same goes for the Cambridge Mask. Luckily, it offers quite strong filtration qualities and is comparable to some of the better performing masks on the market.

Before going any further in this section there are some important points to keep in mind. Firstly, the Cambridge Mask does NOT hold an NIOSH (N95/N99/N100) rating. There was a lot of confusion around this fact a few months ago and it lead to many people believing that Cambridge Mask was N99.

The confusion came because Cambridge Mask claimed that they had N99-level filtration. While this is a true statement, the mask does not adhere to the other NIOSH specifications. In fact, there are virtually no half-face reusable masks that hold an NIOSH rating. A few do hold other ratings however, such as FFP ratings given by the EU, KN ratings given by China and KF ratings given by Korea.

Secondly, it needs to be mentioned that filtration testing is carried out only on the filters of masks usually. This means that the filter is capable, but the mask itself is not actually tested. Further, masks are not effective unless worn properly. For this reason it’s always important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when it comes to fitting.

With that out of the way, these are the certifications that Cambridge Mask holds as listed on their website:

  • American National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) N99 filter requirements under 42 CFR Part 48 (tested by Nelson Labs USA)
  • Certified as child-safe under 14 U.S.C 1278a and CFR Parts 1370 1501 1500.53 and 1500.44 (Certified by Bay Area Testing Labs)
  • EN149 standards for CE in the European Union (Certified by SAI Global and Apave Labs FR)
  • 99.6% viral filtration efficiency and 99.7% bacterial filtration efficiency (tested by Nelson Labs USA).

The specific filtration efficiencies of Cambridge Mask are as follows: PFE (latex particle) 99.7%, VFE (viral particle) 99.6%, BFE (bacterial particle) 99.7%. These are the lowest sample filtration results as tested by Nelson Labs. These tests were all conducted at the MPPS.

Cambridge Mask sent me the Nelson Lab certificates on request. However, they do not display these certificates publicly. While they did give me reasons as to why they prefer to keep these results private, I believe that all lab results should be public and I hope that they change their mind in the future.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at how the Cambridge Mask filtration compares to some other popular reusable masks on the market.

Particle Filtration

Filtration TypeParticle (0.3μm)Particle (0.1μm)
MeoAir≥ 96%≥ 99.74%
Cambridge Mask≥ 99.47%NA
Vogmask≥ 95.38%NA
Totobobo (F94)NA≥ 99.7%
Metamask≥ 98.7%≥ 99%

As seen in the table above, Cambridge Mask provides very competitive filtration at 0.3μm. In fact, compared to the masks on the table above it performs the best. While the Cambridge Mask lacks results for other particle sizes (such as 0.1μm), we can hypothesise that filtration of smaller particles will be higher than 99.47% due to the filtration mechanisms in play.

If the above paragraph sounds like gibberish, I will try to explain more simply. Contrary to what many people believe, masks filter larger AND small particles the most efficiently. There is a point somewhere in the middle that is called the most penetrating particle size (often 0.3μm). Therefore, masks are often actually more capable at filtering smaller particles than they are tested against.

Viral & Bacterial Filtration

Filtration TypeViral (3μm)Bacterial(3μm)
MeoAirNA> 99.99%
Cambridge Mask≥ 99.3%> 99.6%
Vogmask> 99.9%> 99.9%
Totobobo> 99.9%> 99.9%
ConceptAR≥ 99.7%≥ 99.8%

Viral and bacterial filtration with Cambridge Mask is also over 99% in both cases. While the results are generally lower than the competition, they are the worst case results out of the samples tested. In reality, all masks should perform similarly and the best fitting mask is the best choice.

Cambridge Mask also features a carbon filter. This filter is very heavily advertised and is a big attraction for many buyers. Where the nano-filter is designed to filter particles, activated carbon filters are designed to adsorb volatile organic compounds. Carbon filters are also effective against odours.

Overall, the Cambridge Mask Pro features a capable filter. The particle filtration provided is some of the best among reusable masks, however, it does fall slightly behind the competition in regards to viral and bacterial particle filtration. With this in mind, however, it’s important to remember that no mask is effective unless fitted correctly.

Purchase Cambridge Mask Pro | Cambridge Mask Basic


Fit

Fine Dust Respirator

Fit is perhaps the second most important aspect of any mask. It might not seem like it initially, but a perfect fit is vital. If a mask does not create a seal on your face, particles such as fine dust, bacteria, and viruses can avoid the filter altogether and enter around the edges. 

This means that the air (that comes through the sides) is not actually being filtered. While you may receive some protection, you will not receive the full extent that the mask can offer. For this reason, it’s very important to make sure that you purchase the correctly sized mask.

If you need to know how to fit a respirator correctly, please refer to official resources such as this guide from CCOHS.

Cambridge Mask follows the standard reusable mask formula. This means that it uses ear-straps and a wire nose-piece for adjustments and fitting. However, Cambridge Mask Pro also has one bonus that is one of its greatest appeals for me.

This is the chin straps that the Cambridge Mask Pro uses. Unlike other ear-strap masks, the Cambridge Mask features two adjustable straps on either cheek. These straps are elastic and create a strong seal around the chin.

In times such as this, it’s vital not to touch your mask. However, the adjustable straps give you an easy way to adjust the mask without touching the filter or ear-straps. Adjusting these straps also makes it much easier to get a better fit.

The Cambridge Mask also features the wire nose-piece that is standard in most respirators. The wire nose piece has rather surprisingly always stayed in place during my wear (two masks, each of which were worn at least 100 times).

However, this mask runs into the same issue that all other ear-strap masks do. There is very strong pain behind the ears after long periods of wear. If you see yourself wearing your mask for long periods of time, make sure to purchase the optional headband accessory. This is a cheap addition and will remove the pain from your ears.

Cambridge Mask Fitting

Cambridge Mask size guide. From Cambridge Mask.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Cambridge Mask is a bit heavier than some other competing masks. Although this doesn’t make an impact initially, you may notice the extra weight (and the heat that it creates) over long periods.

Therefore, while the Cambridge Mask won’t provide as good of a fit as masks such as the Gill Mask which use a silicone face seal, it is one of the best fitting cloth masks that I have tried. Cloth masks are often very hard to fit correctly, but I found Cambridge Mask to be one of (if not) the best so far.

Looking for another mask with 99% filtration? Check my Totobobo Mask review. MeoAir is another good choice.


Comfort

Cambridge Mask Features

The unfortunate truth is that no mask is comfortable. If there is a comfortable respirator, I have not found it yet, and I would guess that I have tried over 50 so far. While some are more comfortable than others, the reality is that they all provide some discomfort. Cambridge Mask is right in the middle of this spectrum.

Although not the most uncomfortable mask, it is also not the most comfortable. The mask is quite heavy and (even with the valve) it can get very hot and humid inside the mask. 

Some other masks remedy this by using lighter materials, or by using dual-valve designs. While masks will always have different air conditions inside compared to out, the Cambridge Mask can get very hot inside – especially in summer. 

The second issue that I have with comfort is the use of ear-straps. Ear-straps are just, by nature, far less comfortable compared to head-bands. Luckily, this can be remedied using an optional accessory.

Purchase Cambridge Mask Pro | Cambridge Mask Basic


Design 

Cambridge Mask Design

Cambridge Mask comes in many different colours and designs, and there are new designs being released over time. 

If you want a mask that blends in, I recommend getting the Churchill or another plain-coloured mask. The mask is almost totally black and can work with nearly any outfit. 

The biggest standout feature of the mask from the exterior are the dual chin straps. Cambridge Mask is the only mask that I know of that features these straps and they are the only standout feature from the outside. 

As I mentioned earlier in this article, I appreciate these chin straps. They provide a far easier fit, and make it easy to adjust the mask without touching the filter. 

The Cambridge Mask generally doesn’t stand out due to the use of a relatively standard mask design. While some of the colour options are more eye-catching, there is a good balance of subtle and obvious colours. I appreciate the choice as I personally prefer masks that blend in.

Cambridge Mask Models

I would have appreciated the addition of some kind of microfibre inner layer, to prevent contact with the carbon filter. However, this is a very minor issue. I found that I did suck in the inner filter sometimes when breathing, but the issue was not as serious as with other masks.

As mentioned earlier, the mask is a bit heavier and warmer than some competing masks. However, when considering that the Cambridge Mask provides very high filtration levels, this is a minor downside. The mask might not be ideal for warm climates, but it is a good choice for people needing high filtration.

Aropec anti-viral mask full review.


Lifespan

Aqicn.org Air quality index

Cambridge Mask is a reusable mask, and therefore it can be used for extended periods of time. The masks do not feature a replaceable filter, so the mask must be replaced once breathing becomes difficult.

However, the mask lifespan ranges from about 200-350 hours depending on the level of air pollution. Even for days of very high pollution (such as an AQI over 300) the mask has an expected lifespan of over 200 hours.

While there is no definite way to tell when the mask needs replacing, the general advice is to replace the mask once breathing becomes significantly more difficult. If you wear the mask regularly it should last a few months.

The mask can be hand washed, but this will not increase (or decrease) the lifespan of the mask. Having the option to wash the mask can be very useful in certain situations, especially when they can start to smell after a few days of wear.

Learn more about mask filtration mechanisms.


My Thoughts

Cambridge Mask Packaging

The Cambridge Mask was my go-to mask for about 18 months before I started this blog. While I have tried a lot of different masks in the past few years, I always came back to the Cambridge Mask.

Personally, I come back to the mask because it is one that I trust. It fits me well (I have a very small face and use the medium size), and the masks last for a long period of time. It’s very easy to wear, and it’s a mask that I quickly got used to.

My biggest issue with the mask is that it is warmer than other masks. While this is no issue in the colder months, it can be very uncomfortable in the warmer months. Also, the head strap is essential for long periods of wear. Without the head strap, the mask starts to give me headaches after 4 hours or so of wear. 

However, despite these small issues I often end up coming back to Cambridge Mask. I know that many others do too. For that reason, even today (when I have experienced many masks), I often find myself comparing to Cambridge Mask. For me, this is the benchmark of a good cloth mask.

Purchase Cambridge Mask Pro | Cambridge Mask Basic


Should You Buy a Cambridge Mask?

With all of that being said, this brings my Cambridge Mask review to a close. So, would I recommend the mask? Well, as you may have guessed after reading my personal thoughts on the mask, yes, I would recommend it. 

The Cambridge Mask is a great reusable respirator and the one that I usually turn to for my own use. If you are looking for a respirator that provides good filtration against fine dust, and viral and bacteria particles, this is a great mask and definitely one that you should consider. It’s purchasable almost all over the world, and many countries have authorized resellers. 

Of course, it’s not perfect. There are other masks that provide better viral and bacterial filtration. On top of this, the Cambridge Mask is a very warm mask to wear and I found it to be uncomfortable during the warmer months. Despite these flaws though, the mask has served me well.

Pros:

  • > 99% filtration.
  • Proven to be child-safe.
  • Very adjustable, allowing for a good fit.
  • 99.6% and 99.7% viral and bacterial filtration.
  • Long life-span.

Cons:

  • Warmer/heavier than some other masks.
  • Ear-bands can cause pain after long periods of wear. This can be avoided with the head-band accessory.

Considering Vogmask or Airinum too? Check out my Vogmask vs Airinum vs Cambridge Mask comparison. If you are looking for something else altogether, I also have a post on the best reusable respirators.

Purchase Cambridge Mask Pro | Cambridge Mask Basic


Cambridge Mask FAQ

What Rating Does Cambridge Mask Have?

Cambridge Mask holds no official rating. However, it has over 99% filtration for all particle types (PFE, BFE and VFE).

Is the Cambridge Mask N99?

The Cambridge Mask adheres to the NIOSH N99 filtration requirements. However, the mask does not hold an official NIOSH N99 rating.

What are the Best Cambridge Mask Alternatives?

There are many Cambridge Mask alternatives out there. Vogmask, Mau Mask, and Totobobo are all popular options. You can find a full Cambridge Mask vs Vogmask article here. Another mask that offers similar capabilities but for cheaper is Re-Mask Sports.

How Long Can I Use Cambridge Mask For?

Usually you can use a Cambridge mask for around 300 hours or until breathing becomes difficult. However, this depends upon the levels of pollution that you are wearing the mask in and the AQI.

Can Cambridge Mask Filter Viruses?

Cambridge Mask offers 99.6% viral filtration as well as 99.7% bacterial filtration.

Does Cambridge Mask Use a Valve?

The Cambridge Mask Pro does, however the Cambridge Mask Basic does not.

11 thoughts on “Cambridge Mask Review – The Best Reusable Mask?”

    1. Hello Laura.

      I have seen the Nelson Labs certificates personally. I reached out to them and asked to see them – I will not write an article on a mask or respirator without official lab results, it’s one of my requirements.

      However, they asked me not to publicly share them. If you want to see the certificates for yourself I recommend contacting the company.

      They are not listed on the CDC site because as I said in my article, the masks do not hold the N99 rating. Rather, they meet the requirements in regards to particle filtration. ‘On top of the FFP2 certification, Cambridge Mask also meets the filtration requirements for the NIOSH N99 standard. Although the mask is not officially certified as N99, it does meet the requirements and has been lab-tested’.

      Consumer reusable respirators currently can not hold an NIOSH rating due to some of the requirements.

      I understand that I could have been more clear about the exact details. I will update my article to reflect this and to be more obvious about the lack of N99 certification.

  1. Hi.
    I use a Cambridge mask. I agree with all your comments re wearability and have actually bought quite a few for myself and others since their early introduction. The addition of the adjustable head-band was a vital necessity to give the masks a tight fit. I wear glasses and it is sometimes difficult to get just the right fit to avoid them steaming up, but perseverance does pay!

    However I am unclear about one thing. Should they ever be washed or not? The company seems to imply that it is not necessary and you will know when to discard them when it becomes harder to breathe through them. Would washing (assume hand-only in say just warm water alone?) degrade the mask in any way/make it less easy to identify when it should be discarded? I don’t wear them so frequently that I can almost count the hours – so for me, knowing the answer to this would help a lot. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hello Steve,

      Cambridge Mask’s official advice is:

      The mask can be hand washed with soap and hot water. However, this will not extend the life of the filters as the pollution will be locked into them. As the whole mask is the filter, once it has reached its recommended total hours of use, a new mask is needed. Please do not machine wash or dry the mask. (https://cambridgemask.com/frequently-asked-questions/).

      Hand washing should not degrade the lifespan of the mask/filter or make it harder to tell when it should be discarded. However, I would also refrain from washing it unless it is needed (the mask smells or is visibly dirty). I believe that Cambridge Mask implies that they don’t need to be washed as they are intended as pollution masks (in which case washing isn’t that essential). They should definitely be safe to wash though, and the filter lifespan shouldn’t be impacted too greatly. I hope this helps!

    2. Cambridge Mask claims that their masks can be washed without affecting filtration efficiency – however, most people familiar with how their mask filtration works (i.e. through electrostatic filtration) will be able to deduce that this is not the case. Water (and soap, and alcohol) significantly reduces the filtration efficiency of a mask that filters through electrostatic filtration. (The majority of masks utilize electrostatic filtration, although there are some that don’t.) The resources and studies on this are out there (and you can check with scientists / mask manufacturers familiar with this topic) – I will leave it at that.

      Cambridge Mask has been repeatedly asked to comment directly on this issue, and they have demurred / evaded the question with their standard reply without addressing its inherent lack of logic and science-backed evidence.

      To tell consumers that their masks can be safely used after washing (especially during a pandemic, when people are more likely to wash their masks frequently) puts customers at risk and conveys a disregard for customers’ safety and health.

      I am replying to your comment because I empathize with your anxiety and questions – and I know how frustrating it is to be given the run around by that company. Hope this helps.

      1. Hello,

        Thank you for your great reply. You are largely right, I just wanted to add a few things.

        Firstly, electrostatic filtration is not the only method of filtration. While it is a very effective one, there are also filtration mechanisms such as diffusion, inertial impact and interception (usually used in conjunction with electrostatic filtration) these are less impacted by washing. Washing definitely will decrease the efficiency of the filter and this is why it should only be done when essential. I believe the issue is in the wording – the lifespan of the filter won’t be decreased, but the efficiency will be.

        Your comment encouraged me to look up the difference between soap & non-soap washing. Masks can be boiled for around 5 minutes while retaining 90-98% efficiency (Source | Source) and this is probably the easiest method to wash masks at home (dry heat is a good alternative and generally retains more efficiency though). On the other hand, if you wash with soap or medical alcohol the filtration efficiency drops down to 50-70% (source).

        This makes me wonder why they advise washing with soap. As you have mentioned, and as research shows, it lowers filtration efficiency immensely. Boiling seems like a much better alternative and retains far more filtration (but should still only be done when essential).

        With that being said, I apologise, Steve, for the answer I gave you the other day about washing. I took the information from the Cambridge Mask site, but that advice is obviously not great. If you do want to wash the mask, perhaps look towards boiling them? There are many studies out there that give the exact specifics (how long to boil, how hot, etc).

        The sources aren’t the best but I will do some more research once I get home and see what else I can find.

        Again, thank you for your comment. It’s very insightful and I hope more people can read this.

  2. Worth noting that the valve allows your exhaled breath out without any filtering. This means the mask will not provide much less protection to anyone around you than valveless masks. In some countries, I would think it does not meet the legal requirement for a face mask (as such rules are usually focused on protecting others).

  3. thanks for the report, ethan. i’ve been using a cambridge mask for a few months now. not sure if i missed this part, but the CDC and many other reports that have been coming out recently have stated to avoid masks with valves or vents as they can result in expelled respiratory droplets that can affect others and doesn’t prevent the person wearing them from transmitting to others. is the cambridge vent superior to others? all the reports have placed masks with vents/valves in the middle of the bunch in terms of protection, with vent-free N95 and surgical masks at the top of the list. i was going to email cambridge about this.

    1. Hello Harley,

      You are exactly right! I did mention this in the article, but I guess you must have missed that part 🙂

      The Cambridge Mask valve unfortunately has the same issues that other valves have. As such, it shouldn’t be used when two-way filtration is needed. Masks with valves will provide the same protection as non-valve variants, but they will provide the protection ONLY to the wearer (and not both ways). This is where the issue is.

      For this reason, the Cambridge Mask is perhaps not the best choice when it comes to masks for viruses.

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