But even fans of this mask noted that the ties and nose/chin coverage could be a pain to adjust. We like that it comes in an ear-loop version for ease of use, as well as in a head-band format for extended-wear situations. As Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Program at the University of New South Wales’s Kirby Institute, explained: “In the absence of randomized controlled studies for SARS CoV-2, you have to look at principles that have been found by clinical effectiveness and lab studies, put it all together, and make sensible recommendations.”. Filter pocket: Some masks, including those we like best, include at least two layers of cloth and a pocket that allows you to bolster your mask with an additional layer or two of your choice, whether it’s another piece of cloth or a sheet of nonwoven material. “I do not have exact data,” he said, “but my feeling is that the wearer will be tired of using a particular mask faster than the mask becoming unusable.”. Look for a nose-bridge wire. For a mask to work to its fullest potential, it has to fit. Mull is usually used for dress underlining, to help provide more weight and structure to a garment, or for pattern testing garments. Similar in shape to the Baggu, the Graf Lantz has extra material at the top and bottom that provides additional coverage of your nose and chin, even when you open wide. Researchers in the UK looked at how nine common materials – a cotton T shirt, a scarf, a tea towel, a pillowcase, an antimicrobial pillowcase, a vacuum cleaner bag, linen, silk, and a mix of cotton– compared with the performance of a surgical mask. Overall, Smart Air recommends natural fibers over synthetic because the roughness and irregularity of materials, like paper and cotton, can boost their filtering capabilities. A pocket for an additional middle layer, or filter, can be useful for higher-risk situations. That goes for everyone, not just people who know or suspect they’re sick, because as a June 2020 review points out, as many as 45% of people infected with the coronavirus might not show any symptoms. The most popular material for fabric face masks, especially those available to purchase online, is cotton. Add to bag. A face shield can protect your eyes and block big droplets from direct-to-the-face coughs and sneezes. After all, what good is a highly efficient filter if your kid refuses to wear it? We love that the filter is also generously sized to span the entire mask, more so than that of any of our other picks. A filter pocket accommodates additional layers of your choice (none included), and there’s a sturdy nose-bridge wire. Nonwoven materials consist of fibers spun into a random web that is then heated to form a sheet. Dermatologists share their favorites. In addition to the models that became our picks, we tried a number of other masks that met our criteria but fell short once we tried them on: The Scout Face Mask is made of soft prewashed cotton and available in whimsical patterns, but the ear-loop elastics on the version we tried were too thick for our testers to adjust easily by knotting, resulting in gaps along the side. Flaws but not dealbreakers: As with the Kitsbow and Graf Lantz masks, the filter-pocket opening is very small (about 3 inches), and slipping in the filter requires both dexterity and patience. (Microfiber may be more tolerable, though cotton, she said, “is the best material in terms of irritation prevention.”) The American Academy of Dermatology has additional tips. If you do have to use lower-end cotton on the outside, Dr. Segal suggests using flannel as an inner layer. Shopping for a cloth face mask is an exercise in compromises. The face mask has gone from curiosity to commonplace, virtually overnight. When President Trump urged Americans to wear cloth face masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, a barrage of questions inevitably followed: When do we need to wear them? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the latest research on cloth face coverings, help you build a collection of masks that suit your various needs, and explain how prioritizing fit and comfort can lead to better protection—for others and even, possibly, for yourself. A simply cut flat mask creates the opposite situation: It sits close to your nose and mouth, so you have less filtered air to breathe in at any given time. Take it off immediately without touching the face piece and put on a new one.”. Bundle. New research suggests a combination of cotton with natural silk or chiffon makes for the most effective mask. This mask has four separate layers, with the two muslin filter layers sewn directly inside the masks. The pretty Hedley & Bennett Wake Up & Fight masks, made from breathable cotton or cotton-polyester, had thinner, easier-to-knot elastics but still left gaps for those testers with narrower faces. The Outdoor Research Face Mask Kit we tried was too big for small faces, even with the ear-loop toggles (a smaller size will be introduced soon, though). Men-focused sports-and-outdoors brand Ball and Buck is making camouflage versions for $20; with each purchase, it will donate one to a hospital in need. Generous cut: This is the rare feature that enhances both breathability and filtration. A Duke University study, which unintentionally sparked the ruckus, looked at one layer of a particular polyester-spandex design using a novel contraption (the actual topic of the paper). “The mask is like an obstacle course for the virus to get through. And we’ll keep searching for promising options based on the latest science and people’s evolving needs as the seasons change. “The more thread in a given area, the more solid the barrier, the harder it is to get through,” explained North Carolina State University textile scientist Bryan Ormond. But if you want to maximize the potential protection to others and possibly yourself, you might as well choose something more substantial. An easy-to-access pocket means you’re more likely to add a filter in higher-risk situations, such as a semi-crowded grocery-store run. Stanford’s Amy Price, who co-authored a June 2020 paper on the filtration efficiency of household materials, said that the polypropylene crafting material Oly-Fun can increase particle filtration efficiency by 10% to 20% per layer. Check for adjustable fasteners. In October 2020, the CDC published new guidance, recognizing that “COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission,” and that it’s possible to be infected in a poorly ventilated indoor space by a person more than 6 feet away or even shortly after an infected person has left the room. Published: 1 Nov, 2019. Muslin (Bengali: মসলিন) (/ ˈ m ʌ z l ɪ n /) is a cotton fabric of plain weave. As a CDC scientific brief posted in November 2020 points out, when everyone wears masks, infection rates decrease significantly. In early summer 2020, when we started our original draft of this guide, we couldn’t recommend the vast majority of masks sold online because they didn’t satisfy our basic criteria—at least two layers, a filter pocket, a nose-bridge wire, adjustability around the head or ears, and machine washability. A range of sizes along with easy-to-knot headbands mean you have a higher chance of finding a good fit. Whether it blocks smaller droplets is a point of controversy. Its perforated texture enhanced breathability but had us wishing for a more protective feel. Also, cotton is absorbent, meaning it will pull the moisture out of the virus (which it needs to live). We wished that it tented up more from the skin. If you have a mask you can’t return that doesn’t fit well or feel good to wear, you may be able to improve it with a few inexpensive accessories. Cone silhouettes are likely to curve to the cheeks better than a plain piece of cloth that lies flat or a rectangular mask with pleats does. For example, Wang's research found that four layers of spandex material like Lycra had a filtration efficiency of 60%, compared to 10% for four layers of muslin. This way, if the one you’re wearing gets dirty or wet, you’ll have another handy. These add-ons are also iffy for sensitive skin types: Made from plastic or silicone, they can cause friction and irritation if they don’t fit properly, said Philadelphia dermatologist Carrie Kovarik. The bands are also thick, and they feel more comfortable worn well above and below the ear lobes to avoid crushing them. B. By “generous,” we don’t mean a mask that’s too big for you. I was looking for a reusable mask that I could put filters inside and reuse vs. disposable. Official guidance for wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic has changed. The plaids are much lighter and more breathable. “The virus is essentially genetic material wrapped up in a shell of lipids and proteins. Joanne Chen is Wirecutter’s senior staff writer reporting on sleep and, on occasion, other lifestyle topics. If you’re looking for comfort, this is it. Hana Akselrod, MD, MPH, infectious disease physician and assistant professor of medicine, George Washington University, phone interview, July 1, 2020, Sarah Brooks, PhD, director of the Center for Atmospheric Chemistry and the Environment at Texas A&M University, phone interview, June 19, 2020, Lawrence Chu, MD, director of the Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab, Stanford University School of Medicine, Zoom interview, June 26, 2020, Loretta Fernandez, PhD, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University, phone interview, June 19, 2020, Supratik Guha, PhD, professor of molecular engineering at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, phone interview, June 26, 2020, Juan Hinestroza, PhD, associate professor of fiber science and director of The Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory at the College of Human Ecology of Cornell University, Zoom interview, July 10, 2020, Grace Jun, assistant professor of fashion and disability at The New School, Parsons School of Design, New York City, and CEO of Open Style Lab, phone interview, June 23, 2020, Michael Kaye, adjunct professor at FIT and founder of Michael Kaye Couture, phone interview, June 17, 2020, Carrie Kovarik, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, phone interview, June 29, 2020, Ryan Lively, PhD, associate professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, phone interview, July 3, 2020, Mark Losego, PhD, associate professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech, phone interview, July 3, 2020, Linsey Marr, PhD, professor of civil and environmental engineering, Virginia Tech, phone interview, June 26, 2020, Robert Mazzeo, PhD, associate professor of integrative physiology, University of Colorado Boulder, phone interview, June 29, 2020, Raina MacIntyre, PhD, head of the Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, and principal research fellow at Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, Zoom interview, June 28, 2020, Teresa Oranges, MD, PhD, dermatologist at Anna Meyer Children’s University Hospital in Florence and at the Wound Research Unit at the University of Pisa, Zoom interview, July 13, 2020, Bryan Ormond, PhD, assistant professor of textile engineering, Textile Protection and Comfort Center, Wilson College of Textiles, North Carolina State University, phone interview, June 12, 2020, Robin Patel, MD, professor of individualized medicine and of microbiology at the Mayo Clinic, past president of the American Society for Microbiology, phone interview, July 6, 2020, Amy Price, DPhil, senior research scientist, Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab, Stanford University School of Medicine, Zoom interview, June 26, 2020, Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, phone interview, June 17, 2020, Ron Shaffer, PhD, former chief of research at the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, phone interview, June 29, 2020, Felicia Scaggs Huang, MD, associate director of infection prevention and control, division of infectious diseases, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Cincinnati, email interview, June 22, 2020, Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, professor and vice chair of pediatrics and professor of environmental medicine and population health at NYU School of Medicine, author of Sicker Fatter Poorer, phone interview, June 30, 2020, Eric Westman, MD, associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, phone interview, August 12, 2020. Overall, we prefer the ear-loop version of this mask. Always wash a new mask before wearing it for the first time. 1 in the photo) was the next best option, followed by a mask made from two layers of cotton … If you consistently break out in a rash or acne when you wear a cloth face mask, look to the layer of the mask that lies closest to your face. Going Fast. Add to bag. This men's clothing store sells its masks in six-packs on Amazon, and the price per mask is around $4. Dermatologists share their favorites. “Maskne,” or face-mask-associated acne, is a reality for many people. When the mask arrives, hold it up to the light. Bundle. In the meantime, view any specific filtration claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. You may also consider collecting a handful of different styles because each kind is more or less practical for different situations. As with regular cloth face masks, the key is to create multiple layers and a good seal. Multiple layers of 100% cotton T-shirt fabric is very breathable. A September 2020 Northeastern University paper (PDF) reports that a surgical mask sealed to the wearer with a band cut from a pair of nylon stockings went from blocking out 50% to 75% of small (less than 0.3 micron) particles to blocking 90%. You can also thread a strap of Velcro through the two ear loops so the mask attaches at the back of your head. Elastic ear loops with cord stops (like those on the Banana Republic and Herschel Supply Co. masks we like) allow for a customizable fit. And that's a good thing because it's one of the best fabrics for this purpose, Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, pulmonologist and president of Intensive Care Experts Health Network, told TODAY. Our staff writer for fitness, who took the mask on runs, appreciated the way it tented up over the nose but didn’t find it particularly moisture-wicking (in fact, it felt clammy at times). Note, too, that a pleated mask expands when you adjust it to cover your face. Why we like it: The wide Baggu mask with ear loops not only provides more coverage, but its unique design tents up to allow for some air circulation between your nose and the mask. But after a tester took it out on a run, the fabric, along with the filter, became completely and uncomfortably drenched. “When there are large gaps for the droplets to come out, it doesn’t matter how good the filter is or how many layers you have,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. The separately sold filters don’t span the entire mask’s shape exactly, so they don’t optimize the filter’s potential for protection. Viscose from bamboo has been compared to some of the most luxurious fabrics like silk and Egyptian cotton but costs much less. Unfortunately, that mask doesn’t exist. But, Yang explained, "we cannot say that Lycra is always better than muslin because muslin material with a different fiber diameter, permeability and thread counts may perform better than the Lycra.". For a secure fit, adjust any back-of-the-head elastic bands by either tying a knot or placing it atop a ponytail. Hold up your fabric to the light, and check if you can see the individual fibers in it. Gather a range of materials and mask shapes. Photo: Sarah Kobos, The Proper Cloth Everyday Mask in olive (left) and navy linen (right). But it’s snagging the 1-micron-or-smaller droplets—which can come from you or others breathing and talking at regular volume—that’s tough. Darts on the sides of this pre-shrunk, two-ply cotton-twill mask lend a tailored look. To add a filter to the pocket, you’ll have to cut your own from sheets of your chosen material. Because how well a mask works involves myriad factors (the size of a person’s head and facial features, their behaviors and environment), we couldn’t possibly identify the most effective mask for every person and every situation. Why we like it: Our fitness writer’s top pick to jog in (thus far), the Herschel Classic Fitted Face Mask feels like a lighter, more breathable version of the Banana Republic mask. Some N95 masks, including Wirecutter’s picks in our guide to respirators, include valves for easier exhalation. (If you’ve used a polypropylene or paper filter, remove that piece first and throw it out immediately or follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.) This two-layer cotton mask offers more options than most, not only in color but also in fit, fasteners, texture, and layers. A Texas A&M University paper currently under review (here’s the preprint) notes that non-fiberglass premium anti-allergen air filters—which, like Oly-Fun, also consist of polypropylene—seem promising. Add to bag. Why we like it: The Banana Republic Face Mask, sold in a three-pack, was among the first to check off all our boxes, offering a pliable nose wire that holds its shape, adjustable ear loops, and a filter pocket. Quilter’s cotton that has a thread count of 180 or more with a thick, tight weave worked well, NBC News found. What's tricky about most fabrics is that the diameter, permeability and thread count all determine its effectiveness as a mask, Yang Wang, Ph.D, who's leading mask research at Missouri S&T, told TODAY via email. Gap’s Adult Contour Mask and the Athleta Made to Move Mask feel nice and come in cute designs. If it’s too tall, the edges can block your vision, poke your eyes, or hang too loose around your chin, said Jun. Muslin, a lightweight cotton, is a popular option for facial cloths. “Even a quarter-inch can make a difference,” said Jun, especially if you have a wider or thinner face, a longer chin, or a higher nose bridge. (Read on for tips on improving the seal.). A more realistic goal, experts say, is to aim for a minimum of two layers: a somewhat water-resistant outer layer and a comfortable inner layer. “You need to balance comfort and risk.” —Linsey Marr, Virginia Tech. Early in the pandemic, health officials considered these tiny aerosol droplets to be less worrisome. As on the Proper Cloth mask, darts on the sides of the Graf Lantz Zenbu tent up the middle so your mouth and nose don’t feel as constricted. Some cloth-mask makers, such as Kitsbow, include their own removable nonwoven filter layers with their masks, along with the option to buy refills. After hearing raves about the Vistaprint RFS Mask, we gave that model a try, too, but we found its chin coverage quite narrow, with a tendency to ride up. The solid-color versions of this two-ply cone mask have the substantive, tight-weave feel of cotton-canvas painter’s pants; the plaids are made of the lighter performance fabric used in the cycling apparel this company is known for. Its thick, sturdy construction may be too stifling for all-day wear, but it works well for short errands. As with any personal protective equipment, cloth face masks “are the last line of defense in the hierarchy of controls,” said Ormond, the textile engineer at North Carolina State University. Muslin refers to a finely-woven breathable fabric. Be sure to stitch the ends securely so the hand stitching doesn't come undone. The second study used the same experimental setup, but studied a wider range of mask designs, including a 4-ply cotton mask. In particular, denim and bed sheets with 120 thread count filtered out more than 90% of large particles and 24-29% of small ones. 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