Whether you want to buy masks or sew masks yourself, the type of fabric and the construction material. Here's what you need to know.
Everything from the fabric to the design of the earloop can affect how effective a mask is. If you have a good one, you should also know how to wear it properly so that it protects you. Here's how to select the right mask design and how to wear it for the best protection.
Which fabrics are best?
A fabric mask will never be as effective as a medical-grade mask. Since current shortages mean medical-grade masks are best left to people in the medical field, you want the next best thing. Choosing the right fabric ̵
A good mask is easy to breathe, but it filters out particles in the air well. Cotton and cotton blends work best for this. A thick fabric with a tight weave offers the most effective protection (think flannel shirt, instead of airy T-shirt material).
One test found that high quality quilting cotton was best for masks. The New York Times provided a useful analysis of other effective substances and materials that are easy to find at home.
To check for a tight weave, you can hold the fabric up to the light. The less light it lets through, the better. Elastic fabrics are generally not woven tightly enough, but a little stretch can make your mask fit better. Also, avoid using worn-out fabrics that thin out or form holes faster.
Your mask should contain at least two layers of fabric. With extra layers, virus particles will get through more difficult. Make sure the layer of fabric closest to your mouth is comfortable and doesn't irritate your skin.
The fabric should be washable – ideally it is machine washable. You can wash fabric masks by hand, but washing the machine is easier and more efficient. Stay away from delicate fabrics and designs that fall apart quickly.
Embellishments, such as beads or sequins, add more surfaces that viruses can attach to, so you want to avoid them. That said, you can choose a mask in a pattern or color that you like so that you feel better wearing it.
For more detailed information on fabric choices, refer to this handy guide written by personal protective equipment experts. 19659005] Getting the right fit
Your mask should completely cover your nose and mouth. It should extend far beyond the edges of your mouth and nostrils. It should come as close to your eyes as possible, and also under your chin, keeping it in place. Check for a tight, yet comfortable fit and make sure you don't bother breathing. There should be no gaps on the sides.
Ties or elastic loops can work to hold the mask in place. Just make sure that whichever you choose feels cozy and comfortable. If it has ties, pull it tight enough to get a good fit.
A good fabric mask should also remain in place after it is applied. Once you have put on your mask (with clean hands), you should avoid touching it until you are ready to take it off and wash it. Otherwise, you may accidentally spread contamination. Choose a mask that you don't have to adjust as you move.
Add Additional Features
If you can find a mask with a wire nose piece, these are the best. The wire can be molded to the contours of your face for a better fit. And if you wear glasses, this feature ensures they don't fog up.
Some masks also use water-repellent or antimicrobial agents, which may be better able to protect you. The addition of a disposable filter also makes a mask more effective, but a mask without a filter is still better than no mask at all.
How to Wear Your Mask Safely
Once you have the ideal fabric mask, you still have to put it on and take it off responsibly. Otherwise, it may not protect you as well as you hoped.
Always wash your hands before and after touching your mask. Do not touch the fabric part and use the straps or ear loops for donning and doffing. Treat your mask as if it has been infected by the virus every time you wear it – because as far as you know, it was.
If you live in a multi-unit building, such as an apartment, put your mask on before you walk out your door and don't take it off until you're back home. A lot of contamination can occur in the corridor or stairwell of your building.
Finally, always wash your mask thoroughly after wearing it to remove any viruses that may attach to the surface.
Still not sure how to put it on. and take off your mask safely? Check out this guide. It focuses on surgical masks, but also has useful tips that can be applied to different types of fabric masks.
This is the best current information about choosing and wearing a face mask. However, keep in mind that recommendations are regularly updated and changed as new information about the coronavirus comes to light. When in doubt, always follow the latest guidelines from reputable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With widespread, responsible masking we can mitigate the threat of COVID-19.