What Is The Best Face Mask For Me?
What Type Of Mask Do I Need?
If you are a healthcare worker and your job requires you to wear proper respirators then there is no real replacement for that. Cloth masks should only be considered if there is no proper PPE protection available. N-95’s and similar respirators do a good job at blocking viruses. But as there is a huge shortage of this gear right now, they should be left for our frontline health workers who need them the most. Quite frankly, respirators are not something that are needed for just popping to the supermarket.
Surgical masks are subject to conflicting recommendations when it comes to virus prevention. But one thing’s for sure; unlike N95 masks that filter in both directions, a surgical mask is designed to filter the air during exhalation only. In addition, they rarely provide a tight enough fit for proper protection.
So let’s leave the respirators and surgical masks with our frontline health workers where they belong and focus on the different types of cloth masks.
What Style of Cloth Mask Gives Better Protection?
A tight fitting mask made with good breathable, filtering materials is the short answer.
There are now hundreds of patterns and videos circulating the internet on how to make DIY cloth face masks and as many people selling them. But when it comes to washable cloth face mask types, we can narrow it down to two different styles:
The ‘pleated’ mask VS. The ‘fitted’ mask
Here’s the lowdown.
The pleated mask is easy and quick to make; you don’t need a pattern or a printer to print out the pattern. All that is required is two rectangles of fabric, elastic/string or ribbon.
Many sewing heroes around the world are making pleated masks for the pandemic going on right now. You don’t need to be an expert sewer so you can churn them out and get them to where they are needed, fast. However, the fit of the pleated mask is not always the best choice. They often squish the nose down, gape at the sides and can be a bit bulky. And without the addition of a flexible nose-wire, they do not offer a tight fit above the nose.
The fitted mask takes a little longer to sew and comes in a variety of patterns. It is ergonomically designed with a seam across it, horizontally or vertically.
These masks require a pattern in order to make them, so a printout is needed in order to properly replicate them. They are more conical in shape, creating space for the nose which also make it more comfortable to wear. Although they take a little longer to make, the end result is usually a much better fitting mask that doesn’t necessarily require a nose-wire.
The materials used need to be carefully considered, but what is most important is having a tight fit, with no air gaps around the nose, chin or cheeks.
For this reason alone we prefer and sew the fitted model.
What Are The Best Materials To Use For a Cloth Mask?
In short, a good quality cotton with a high thread count.
New research is emerging daily on what materials filter the most efficiently. There is currently no definitively endorsed material to use, but there is lots of information about how to maximise efficiency of recommended materials.
The good guys at Smart Air Filters have been busy testing various materials you can find at home that could protect against particles the size of viruses.
When considering breathability and filtration, the following are recommended;
- Lightweight Denim (10oz)
- 100% cotton bed sheets (80-120 thread).
- Paper towels
A single layer of fabric is rarely sufficient on its own so doubling or tripling up or layering different materials is a much better option. For extra protection, a layer of interfacing fabric is recommended too.
What is interfacing fabric?
This non-woven material is made from short fibres fused and mashed together similar to pulp made into paper. It is a similar melt-blown material to polypropylene (the fibre used to make disposable respirators) and can be found in many fabric stores. It can either be sewn into a fitted mask as an extra layer or inserted as a separate filter.
Do I Need a Filter With My Reusable Face Mask?
Filters can improve the capabilities of cloth face masks. Choosing a mask with a filter pocket will enable you to insert non-washable materials with good filtering abilities (like paper towels) and then remove them prior to washing.
There are manufactured face mask filters on the market for inflated prices, like the PM2.5 but there is no information stating how they protect from viruses.
New research is emerging daily on material efficiency for filters. Again, check out Smart Air Filters for recommendations:
We recommend paper towel, interfacing fabric and saline filters.
What is a saline filter?
This is a salt-infused filter that has a higher filtration efficiency than conventional mask filtration layers. The saline filter goes beyond blocking the virus, to potentially killing it if the virus breaks through the surface of the mask. Research into saline filters is ongoing and is led by biomedical engineer, Hyo-Jick Choi at the University of Alberta in Canada.
Masks For Good!
Our not for profit masks benefits not just you but others too.
For each mask you buy from us we donate one to a person in need locally.
We try to keep up with stocking our shop with our reusable, washable, ethically made sustainable face mask. If we don’t have any in stock, please get in touch and we can let you know when they will be back in stock.