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 made a full review of the mask. While I have compared Cambridge Mask, Vogmask, and Airinum, I never got around to reviewing the mask itself.
In this post today, I want to take an in-depth look at Cambridge Mask and see if it is deserving of its reputation as one of the most popular reusable masks on the market. Are Cambridge Masks a good way to begin protecting yourself, or are you better off looking elsewhere? Today, I will answer this question.
I will focus on what I believe to be the most essential aspects in order – filtration, fit, design, and models. I will 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 (valveless) 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.
For this reason, the Cambridge Mask Pro is my recommendation for most wearers unless source control is important for your usage. Generally, source control is most important when dealing with viruses, as you want two-way filtration to protect both yourself and others around you.
When it comes to air pollution and one-way protection, masks with valves tend to be a better choice as they not only have lower exhalation resistance (and therefore better breathability), but they are also better at expelling heat and humidity. Overall, these two factors generally lead to a more comfortable experience.
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. Devices mentioned on this website are not medical devices and do not guarantee protection.
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 crucial points to remember. Firstly, the Cambridge Mask does NOT hold a NIOSH (N95/N99/N100) rating. There has been a lot of confusion around this fact in the past, leading to many people believing that Cambridge Mask was N99.
The confusion came because Cambridge Mask claimed that they had N99-level filtration. While this may seem true on the surface level, as the Cambridge Mask Pro does sport > 99% filtration indeed, there’s more to the matter than simple filtration percentages. All you need to know is that Cambridge Mask is not NIOSH-approved, and it does not compare with an N99 device.
Interestingly, masks such as Cambridge Mask can’t even hold a NIOSH certification. There are certain requirements in the standard that ‘typical’ cloth masks such as Cambridge Maks simply don’t meet. For example, N95s, N99s, and N100s all require headbands and a mask with earloops can’t be approved by NIOSH.
While reusable cloth masks such as Cambridge Mask can’t hold NIOSH certifications, there are other certifications they can hold. FFP ratings are given by the EU, KN ratings are given by China and KF ratings are given by Korea. Cambridge Mask Pro holds an FFP2 RD rating. In regards to filtration, this is roughly similar to the N95 rating. You can learn more about European EN certifications here. If you don’t want to dive into that article, let’s take a quick look at what FFP2 RD means:
- FFP2 – Meets EN149:2001 and has ≥ 94% filtration and internal leakage ≤ 8%, among other requirements.
- R – The mask is designated as reusable.
- D – Indicates the mask has undergone the Dolomite Dust Test showing it resists clogging and can be used for a longer period.
Since this confusion, Cambridge Mask has become much more transparent about its certifications and lab tests. In the past, they were never displayed publicly, and I had to reach out to the company in order to write my initial review. Since then, they have now made everything public. Please feel free to refer to their certifications page for more information.
On top of the aforementioned rating, Cambridge Masks have also undergone filtration testing by Nelson Labs. These tests indicate the exact filtration efficacy of the filter media under certain conditions against different particles. Cambridge Mask Pro underwent three filtration tests – particle filtration efficiency, bacterial filtration efficiency and viral filtration efficiency.
The specific filtration efficiencies of Cambridge Mask are as follows: PFE (latex particle) ≥ 98.9%, VFE (viral particle) ≥ 99.8%, and BFE (bacterial particle) ≥ 99.0%. For each test, 5 samples were used, and these were the lowest results from the samples. It is worth noting that, on average, the samples provided higher filtration, as the table below shows.
Lowest Filtration Result vs Average
The above results were found using a particle size of 0.1μm (for PFE) and 2.8μm (BFE & VFE). All of these tests were carried out in July/August 2020, and they should still be up to date as the masks haven’t undergone any significant changes for the past few years.
These filtration results are impressive at first glance, and they show that the Cambridge Mask Pro’s filter is more than capable of filtering the vast majority of latex, bacterial, and viral particles. However, there is one caveat to keep in mind that many people overlook.
The test conditions to which the Cambridge Mask Pro were tested (ASTM F2299 and ASTM F2101) are both less challenging than the test conditions to which N95s are tested. A lot of people see the results of Cambridge Mask (and other similar masks) and assume they are better performing than respirators with a lower filtration efficiency.
Are you interested in learning about the differences between particle filtration efficiency tests?
While the filtration results show a high level of performance, a mask such as Cambridge Mask, Vogmask, or Airinum is not a replacement for a head-band respirator tested to more stringent testing conditions. With that said, the Cambridge Mask does perform well, provided it is fitted correctly with minimal leakage.
With that out of the way, I also wanted to see how Cambridge Mask compares to the competition. I picked some other popular reusable masks to compare test results under the same standard.
|≥ 99.47% (old results)
As the table above shows, Cambridge Mask provides competitive filtration at 0.3μm (albeit using older test results). In fact, compared to the masks in the table above, it performs the best at 0.3μm. At 0.1μm, Cambridge Mask falls slightly behind when considering the worst-performing sample results. However, the filtration still falls within 1% of the other masks.
With filtration results this high, it is best to use whichever mask fits you best. A well-fitted FFP2 or equivalent mask will provide better protection than a loosely-fitted FFP3 or equivalent mask with leaks. With this in mind, it’s important to choose the mask that fits you best.
Viral & Bacterial Filtration
Viral and bacterial filtration with Cambridge Mask equals or exceeds 99% in both cases. While the results are lower than some of 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 primary filter is designed to filter particles, activated carbon filters are designed to adsorb volatile organic compounds. Carbon filters are also effective against odours.
The addition of a carbon filter is welcome, and I always appreciate some odour filtration. However, no cloth mask should be relied upon when it comes to the filtration of toxic organic compounds. You’ll want a half-face respirator with specific filter cartridges in these cases.
The breathability of the Cambridge Mask Pro is good but not the best. Some masks, such as those using wool (AusAir AirWeave), microfibre (NarooMask) and nanofibre (Happy Masks and Craft Cadence Mask) filters, have significantly better breathability. Cambridge Mask is comparable in breathability to Vogmask and standard KF94/KN95 respirators.
Overall, the Cambridge Mask Pro features a capable filter. The particle filtration provided is some of the best among reusable cloth masks; however, it does fall slightly behind the competition in regard to viral and bacterial particle filtration. With this in mind, however, it’s important to remember that no mask is effective unless fitted correctly.
Although we spend a lot of time discussing filtration, the fit is as important for determining the performance of a mask or respirator. A good fit is vital for the best protection. 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 it to the full extent that the mask can offer. For this reason, it’s very important to ensure you purchase the correctly sized mask.
If you need to know how to fit a mask correctly, please refer to official resources such as this guide from CCOHS. While the guide is designed for respirators, many of the same steps and processes still apply to cloth masks. It’s also good to know how to perform a seal check to ensure no air is escaping.
Cambridge Mask follows the standard reusable mask formula. This means 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 to me.
Please note: the mask in the image above is not fitted correctly as the mask is too large for her. However, it shows a good side profile of the product.
This unique feature is the chin strap design 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 help create a strong seal around the chin.
This feature alone means I prefer the fit of the Cambridge Mask Pro over other similar masks, such as Vogmask and Airinum. I feel far more confident in the chin seal of this mask because I can adjust each side individually and ensure there is no gap under my chin or the edges of my jaw.
The Cambridge Mask also features the standard wire nose-piece found in most masks and respirators. The wire nosepiece is firm and maintains a steady seal, even when I’m moving or otherwise active. While the lack of adjustable earloops or headbands means it’s difficult to seal the mask around my nose fully, the wire used in the nosepiece is a strength of the Cambridge Mask Pro.
The lack of adjustable earloops is this mask’s biggest flaw when it comes to fit. With so many different face shapes and sizes, I believe every mask should have adjustable mounting mechanisms. While the medium Cambridge Mask Pro fits me quite well, many people will struggle to get a fit due to the lack of adjustability.
While the chin straps can adjust the nose gap somewhat, it would be far better to have the second dimension of adjustment that adjustable earloops allow. Without adjustable earloops, I sometimes find myself struggling to seal the mask around the bridge of my nose fully.
I do have to note that all Cambridge Mask Pros come with an adjustable headband attachment. This elastic band can be attached to the earloops and allows for a slightly better fit while also taking some of the pressure off the wearer’s ears. However, it’s no replacement for a proper headband design, and I feel like adjustable earloops would improve the fit significantly.
The Cambridge Mask Pro is available in a wide range of sizes. It’s rare to see five different sizes, and mask brands typically offer one to three sizing options. I believe the need for five different sizes largely stems from the fixed earloops.
Cambridge Mask size guide. From Cambridge Mask.
When purchasing a Cambridge Mask Pro for the first time, make sure to follow the official sizing guide to ensure your mask fits as best it can. I have always purchased the M size and find it to fit better than the L size (even though I weigh around 66kg).
Overall, while the Cambridge Mask won’t provide as good of a fit as masks such as the Gill Mask, which uses a silicone face seal, it is one of the better-fitting cloth masks I have tried. Cloth masks are often hard to fit correctly, but I found Cambridge Mask to be one of the best.
However, I can’t overlook the lack of adjustable earloops. While other competing masks, such as Vogmask, also don’t include such a toggle, Vogmask is a mask that generally doesn’t fit me very well. On the other hand, I find myself able to achieve a great fit with adjustable masks such as Happy Masks.
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 100 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 hot and humid inside. This is especially true during the summer in South Korea, where temperatures can reach higher than 35 degrees Celsius. I struggle to wear my Cambridge Mask Pro during the warmer months because it’s just too hot.
Some other masks remedy this using lighter materials or dual-valve designs. While masks will always have different air conditions inside than outside, the Cambridge Mask performs very poorly in this regard, and lighter/more breathable masks provide much more comfort during warm months.
The second issue I have with Cambridge Mask’s comfort is the ear straps. While the earloops are quite thick and more comfortable than many masks, I find they still make wearing the mask for long periods uncomfortable. Again, the lack of adjustable earloops doesn’t help because there’s only one way to wear the mask – you can’t loosen the bands when they begin to come uncomfortable.
Other than these two points, I don’t have much to say about the comfort of the Cambridge Mask Pro. The mask is not uncomfortable, but these two issues prevent me from saying it is comfortable. With the included headband, I found the ear issue was mostly alleviated, but the heat and humidity issue was not avoidable.
That leads me to this conclusion regarding the Cambridge Mask Pro’s comfort: during colder months and months when the temperature is not hot, Cambridge Mask is generally a comfortable mask to wear – especially if you utilise the headband attachment. However, during warm months I would recommend looking for a different mask.
Cambridge Mask comes in many different colours and designs, and new designs are being released over time. Whether you want a simple black mask or something that stands out, you can find it from Cambridge Mask.
If you want a mask that blends in, I recommend getting the Churchill or another plain-coloured mask. The mask is entirely black and can work with nearly any outfit.
The biggest standout feature of the mask from the exterior is 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.
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 noticeable colours. I appreciate the choice, as I prefer masks that blend in.
Price & Lifespan
Cambridge Mask is a reusable mask that can be used for extended periods. The masks do not feature a replaceable filter, so the mask must be replaced once breathing becomes difficult or the mask becomes otherwise damaged.
Each Cambridge Mask Pro costs £25 or $32 (USD), depending on the store from which you purchase your mask. The mask’s 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.
This means that, on average, you are looking at around $1 per 10 hours of wear. Compared to disposable respirators and masks, Cambridge Mask will come out cheaper in the long run – assuming you use disposable respirators for only a few days each.
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 should be avoided where possible. Cambridge Mask provides a washing guide and recommends washing the mask with washing soda and warm water. While the mask can be washed when needed, I recommend avoiding this whenever possible.
Washing a mask can degrade the filter and lead to decreased filtration efficacy. While some filters can maintain their performance or have minimal degradation, I haven’t found test results for Cambridge Mask. Without these results, I recommend avoiding washing the mask if possible because we don’t know how each wash cycle will impact the filter.
Should You Buy a Cambridge Mask?
With all that being said, this brings my Cambridge Mask review to a close. So, would I recommend the mask? Well, it depends on a few factors. If you’re looking for a reusable cloth mask and are not interested in a reusable elastomeric device, the Cambridge Mask Pro may be a good choice.
If you need the best protection, you will want to move to an approved respirator such as an N95. However, for situations where you want to have a good level of protection and don’t want to keep relying on disposable masks, Cambridge Mask is a good choice.
Compared to Vogmask, I find the Cambridge Mask to perform better. While it’s less comfortable due to higher breathing resistance and heavier materials, it also fits better as it has one dimension of adjustment. While this should be two (yes, I will keep coming back to the omission of adjustable earloops!), it’s an improvement over none.
The biggest issue I have with Cambridge Mask is the hot and heavy materials used. I can’t wear the mask in summer without feeling uncomfortable and almost claustrophobic. Thankfully, this isn’t an issue in winter or in cooler climates but it is something to be aware of.
If you’re interested in reading about other reusable masks, please feel free to refer to this post on reusable masks. In it, I compare a range of alternatives in various different price and performance categories. If you want to see what other options are available, make sure to check it out!
Cambridge Mask FAQ
What Rating Does Cambridge Mask Have?
Cambridge Mask holds the FFP2 RD certification. On top of this, 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?
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 99.8% viral filtration as well as 99.0% bacterial filtration.
Does Cambridge Mask Use a Valve?
Yes. Cambridge Masks make use of a valve. However, this valve can be covered using the optional valve stopper.
Cambridge Mask Review - The Best Reusable Mask?
Cambridge Masks are some of the most well-known reusable cloth masks on the market. With a long lifespan, high filtration efficiency, and an adjustable fit, many people have come to rely on Cambridge Masks.
Product Brand: Cambridge Mask
- > 98.9% filtration
- Adjustable chin straps
- 99.8% and 99.0% viral and bacterial filtration
- Long life-span
- Included headband
- Hot and humid
- Earloops aren't comfortable
- No filtration testing after wash cycles
- No adjustable earloops