As more and more states open up, many require residents to wear a face mask in public to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Your cloth face-covering protects you from others and others from you. This way, if we’re sick (even if we don’t know it), there’s less chance we inadvertently infect others. Cloth face masks won’t act as personal protective equipment (PPE), so don’t let it give you a false sense of safety. Maintain at least 6 feet apart, wash your hands as recommended, and avoid touching your face. Take some advice from Minions and Gru.
Purchasing cloth face masks online can be stressful. With more and more brands offering face mask options - how do you know which one actually protects you? Which material should you be choosing? What should you be looking for?
If this sounds like what is going through your head, then you are in the right place.
What To Look For When Shopping For Masks?
1. Mask Material
Material is everything. It will determine how well you are protected! Besides protection, you also want to choose a durable material.
When looking for the best protection, an N95 mask gives you that; however, we are forced to find alternatives with the current shortages. When choosing face mask material, a general rule of thumb is thicker, and denser fabrics will do a better job than thinner, more loosely woven ones. Best mask materials to look for include silk, cotton, chiffon, cotton quilt, or a blend. Studies shown tightly woven 100% cotton outperforms most synthetics (includes 100% polyester and nylon) (1, 2, 3). Many independent studies have shown that a total of 600 thread count cotton face masks can be very effective (4, 5). Several studies have also shown that the more layers the cloth face mask contains, the more effective it is to block small particles (6, 7).
In short: Look for silk, chiffon, or high thread count cotton material with at least two layers.
It is also important to remember that global warming is another looming crisis. Single-use face masks (while some offer great protection and are necessary to ensure the safety of doctors and all essential workers) are horrific to the environment. When possible, ditching your single-use mask and swap for reusable face mask can make a difference to our environment.
Another thing to note about this single-use disposable blue face masks is they are not all medical grade surgical masks. Even though they all look very similar, the quality is very different. Some are actually non medical grade masks. Medical grade surgical masks are required to be regulated by the FDA to be label as surgical masks. Now, even if you can get your hands on some medical grade surgical masks, they will not provide you with full protection, as an N95 mask would from COVID. Surgical masks are designed to block large particles that may contain viruses. However, it is NOT designed to block small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs or sneezes. When it comes to purchasing single-use disposable face masks, they all come in different qualities. When you aren't sure if the face mask protects you, the best thing to do is to test it yourself at home. However, keep in mind single-use disposable face masks are made from synthetic material like polypropylene, and they do not break down quickly. After they get tossed away, they will not just disappear but slowly break down into micro-plastics, which can enter the food chain and increase marine plastic problems. When possible, seek reusable face masks made from organic materials to reduce your carbon footprint.
In short: Single-use face masks are horrific for the environment and necessary for healthcare workers. Try using less single-use masks (when possible) and more reusable face masks made from organic materials instead.
Now, you are probably wondering what option will protect you without negatively impacting the environment? Look for materials like natural silk and organic cotton. These material types are reusable, good for the environment, and ultimately good for your health. While natural silk does have the best hydrophobicity, it is naturally used as an antimicrobial barrier, but it is harder to breathe in than cotton material. If you get a high thread count cotton mask that is at least double-layered, it will protect you with better breathability.
When it comes to cotton, it's known that conventional cotton uses more pesticide, insecticide, herbicides than most other crops in the world. Some of these chemicals include silicone waxes, petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde. So if you want to help to improve our environment, avoid purchasing conventional cotton face masks. Plus, an organic cotton face mask is much better for your health. With body heat and sweating, it accelerates these residues' absorption into your skin, which can cause reactions like acne, rash, and eczema. If you have sensitive skin or don't want to absorb or breathe in chemicals, then an organic cotton reusable face mask is your best choice.
In short: organic cotton contains less chemical than conventionally grown cotton. Organic cotton is better for your health and the environment.
How to Measure Your Face For A Mask
A properly fitted face mask should sit snug against your face and secure with ties or loops behind the head's ears or back.
Before purchasing a reusable organic cotton face mask, do some preliminary measuring around your face. This step is essential, especially when the mask is only available in one size.
If you are unsure how to measure, see photo on the left as reference.
How To Test Your Mask At Home
Regardless of what type of reusable face mask you purchase, you should always test how well it will protect you right at home. Here are a few easy ways you can go about it, and you can decide which one to use:
Spray Test method
Requirement: Spray bottle filled with water.
Different fabrics vary in their ability to block water droplets. And we want a material that blocks water droplets (first video on the right).
Here is an example of water sprayed through three different pillowcases. The first video on the right side is what we want to see.
Candle Blowing Method
This method is straightforward. Lit up a candle and then try to blow into the candle with your face mask on. If you can blow out a candle with your face mask on, that is not a face mask you would want to wear. This means your mask doesn’t adequately stop the flow of air. If you can blow air out, air can also leak inward just as easily.
How To Safely Take Your Mask Off
- Wash your hand or use hand sanitizer.
- Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. Avoid touching the front of the mask or your face.
- If your mask has filters, remove them and throw them away. Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry.
- Wash your hand or use hand sanitizer again.
How To Clean Your Organic Cotton Mask
There are two ways to go about cleaning your organic cotton face masks:
- Put your reusable face masks in the washer and wash with cold or warm water with detergent. Let it air dry or put it in the dryer.
- Hand washes your masks with a non-scented detergent in warm water. Scrub the mask for at least 20 seconds. Let it air dry or put it in the dryer.
Organic Cotton Mask Reviews
Affordable GOTS certified organic cotton adult face masks with easily adjustable straps. The brand is selling them at cost.
Naturepedic, an eco-friendly mattress company (the mattress company I am currently sleeping on), quickly started manufacturing organic cotton face masks in their Ohio factories. They are selling their organic cotton masks at cost as a public service.
$49 For A Pack Of 6 Masks
Affordable OEKO-TEX 100 organic certified cotton face masks with pocket for extra filter.
Avocado is another eco-friendly mattress company that is now manufacturing face masks.
$23 for pack of 4 adult masks; $36 for a family pack of 8 masks
Affordable GOTS certified organic cotton sateen adult face masks. Selling at cost!
A maker of organic mattresses and bedding. They are now turning their fabric into a mask and selling it at the cost of material and labor.
$25 for Pack of 4 Masks
All the face masks above are made from organic cotton, and they are reusable. This makes them good for you and good for the environment. Keep in mind they are not surgical masks and non medical masks. They may help reduce transmission of Covid-19, especially if you are a carrier with no symptoms. However, even with a reusable organic cotton mask on, you should still wash your hand frequently, keep your social distance, and avoid touching your face.
Each of the brands has its pros and cons. Before purchasing, I highly recommend measuring your face first because these reusable face masks vary in size. Some may not be a good fit for you. You also have to keep in mind that some of these masks will shrink a little after washing. While these masks are not the most fashionable face masks on the market, they sure are safe, healthier options for your body and the environment.
Have organic cotton masks that you LOVE? Please share it and comment below!