5 Best Face Masks for Viruses
Coronavirus came like a global earthquake, and no one knows when the world will stop quaking. The seismic wave of this pandemic has shaken up our lives in too many ways to count. COVID-19, the most recent strain of coronavirus we’re contending with, has caused numerous illnesses, and unfortunately deaths, worldwide. Enter the face mask. Differing and flip-flopping views of face masks have resulted in confusion and skepticism.
We’re here to give you the facts.
Anti Virus Masks: Are They Recommended?
Initally, the CDC and The World Heath Organization both advised the general public against wearing face masks; they suggested that the only people who needed to wear masks were those caring for the infected; those in high-risk groups; and those with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms. However, as we continue to learn more about coronavirus, expert opinions have shifted. Both the CDC and WHO are now recommending face masks to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
On April 3, 2020, The CDC recommended the use of cloth face masks for the general public. On May 26, the CDC released an updated statement recommending that “everyone wear face coverings when leaving their homes, regardless of whether they have fever or symptoms of COVID-19.” Their recommendation followed the observation that “people with COVID-19 can spread the disease, even when they don’t have any symptoms.”
World Heath Organization
On June 5, 2020, WHO began recommending the use of cloth face masks in “areas of widespread transmission, with limited capacity for implementing control measures,” stating that “masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives.
What Are The Best Face Masks?
Many of us are under government order to wear cloth masks in public, so the question changes from “Should I wear a face mask for virus protection?” to “What is a good face mask?”. Not all masks are created equal, and levels of protection are varied. It is important to look at several factors to help you find the best anti virus mask. There are two main things to consider when determining the effectiveness of any anti-viral mask: the filtration level and the fit.
- Filtration: The filtration level defines the percentage of microscopic particles and droplets that are prevented from passing through the mask. The higher the filtration level, the less likely it is for virus-causing particles to permeate the mask, making viruses less likely to spread.
- Fit: A more fitted mask helps to stop virus-causing particles from seeping out of or into the mask through open spaces on the top, bottom, and sides of the mask. Additionally, even though face masks are often referred to as mouth masks, it is important to note that masks must fit over both the mouth and nose to be effective.
Anti virus masks are primarily classified as either medical masks or non-medical cloth masks. Every option has its pros and cons when it comes comfort, fit, and protection against viruses in general. Let’s start by looking at cloth face masks.
How to Choose The Best Cloth Face Masks
Cloth anti-viral masks vary greatly in efficiency depending on various factors. In fact, A recent study from Wake Forest Baptist Health showed that the filtration levels of cloth masks varied from as low as 1% to anywhere up to 79%, which is higher than surgical masks.
Cloth masks have the advantage of being in ready supply and being reusable, which makes them a great option for the general public. A cloth face mask can create an efficient barrier for virus protection if it meets the right criteria. Whatever you choose to do, there are few questions you need to ask yourself to ensure you have a good face mask:
How many layers of fabric are in the mask?
Masks should have at least 2 layers of fabric to be effective. Studies have shown masks with only one layer of fabric have significantly less filtration than those with two layers. Dr. Scott Siegel, who recently led a study at Wake Forest Baptist Health to test the filtration level of different fabrics, suggests using a mask that is thick enough to block light when held in front of the sun.
What is the mask made of?
Fabric and construction make a huge difference when determining the effectiveness of a cloth face mask. According to the CDC and some recent studies, tightly woven fabric is ideal for cloth face masks. The best face masks have built-in filtration by way of tightly woven cotton, linen, silk, or polyester.
Can I breathe through the mask?
The ideal cloth mask creates a balance between filtration and breathability. A mask may provide excellent filtration, but that doesn’t mean much if you can’t breathe through it. If the mask is not breathable, more air will escape through the gaps on the sides and top, making it less effective. Make sure the mask is breathable.
Is this mask comfortable?
Is the mask smooth and soft against the skin or is rough and scratchy? The mask may be on all day, so it is important that it feels good against the delicate skin on the face.
How does this mask fit?
Cloth masks are more effective if they are well fitted with minimal gaps around the face. Try to make or purchase a mask with a good fit to better block virus-causing particles.
Is this mask washable?
Masks must be sanitized after each wear to be effective. The easiest way to sanitize a mask is to put it in the washer at 140 degrees fahrenheit. Masks that are not washable, such as masks with a metal piece that cannot be removed, will have to washed by hand, which is more difficult.
Can a filter be inserted in this mask?
Filters make masks more effective, so it is important that the mask has a place where a filter can be inserted, such as an interior pocket. Any filter helps here, even a simple coffee filter.Keep reading to learn more about the best filters.
Is there a water resistant layer?
Ideally, a mask will have a water resistant layer to help block droplets more effectively.
Top High Quality Face Masks
We recommend purchasing a high quality face mask for the best level of virus protection. Our top choice is a Cardani fitted mask because these masks meet all the critera above. There are multiple options for men, women and children. Some features we like include:
- 3 Layers of Fabric: They are made with an interior and exterior layer of fabric with an inner tightly woven poly-layer that has been treated with a water-resistant finish grade 4, which minimizes moisture penetrating the mask.The inner an outer layer are made of high quality, high thread-count organic cotton or bamboo viscose which are both very soft.
- Structure: This inner poly-layer also adds structure to this mask, making it easier to breathe.
- Fitted: This mask is well fitted around the mouth and nose, and has adjustable ear straps to get a better fit on the face and keep your ear comfortable.
- Washable: They are washable and reusable.
- Filter Pocket: They have a pocket for a filter to be inserted.
Shop these masks here.
Watch the video below to learn more about these masks.
Cloth Face Masks: Finding a Good Fit
Selecting the best mask fit for you:
Face masks are available in two basic fits: accordion and fitted. Take a look below to learn more about these two types of face masks.
- Includes surgical masks and certain cloth face masks.
- Made with various pleats that unfold over the face to cover the nose and mouth, and wrap around chin.
- This style typically covers more of the face than a fitted style mask.
- These masks often have a metal or moldable plastic piece at the bridge of the nose to create a custom fit.
- Includes N95 respirators and certain cloth face masks.
- This style is designed to contour to the face and create a seal.
- Fitted masks cover the mouth and nose but do not always wrap underneath the chin.
- These masks sometimes have a metal or moldable plastic piece at the bridge of the nose, but the contoured fit already makes this mask stay put on the face.
Getting used to wearing a face mask can be difficult, and it’s not always easy to know if it fits. Here’s what to look for when determining whether or not your face masks fits:
- Masks should be snug to the face to create a better seal, but should not be tight enough to severly restrict breathing. Because masks cover your mouth and nose, note that all face and mouth masks will restrict breathing to some degree; this adjustment may take some getting used to
- The fit should be tight enough on the bridge of the nose to ensure the mask stays positioned on the face comfortably.
- The ear bands must be tight enough to ensure the mask stays in place.
- A face mask must cover both the mouth and nose to be effective.
- Face masks do not need to cover the chin, however, if your mask covers your chin it will create a more complete seal around the face.
- It is OK if there are gaps around the edges of the mask.
How to Make a Face Mask
If you are planning on making a face mask, we recommend creating it with thick, tightly woven cotton fabric, which performed very well in a recent test conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Health. Batik and woodblock cotton headscarves and face bandanas are a fantastic option here. If you don’t know how to sew, watch our quick tutorials below to learn how to make a face mask using just a scarf or bandana and elastic hair ties, or our T-shirt face mask tutorial. All of our tutorials feature at least 2 layers of fabric, and a pocket to insert a filter.
1. How to Make a Bandana Face Mask for Coronavirus | DIY and No-Sew
Watch the video below to learn how to construct a no-sew, DIY face mask from a bandana. Shop bandanas here.
2. How to Make a Scarf Face Mask for Coronavirus | DIY and No-Sew
Watch the video below to learn how to quickly and easily turn a scarf into a face mask for coronavirus. Shop cotton scarves here.
3. How to Make a T-Shirt Face Mask for Coronavirus | DIY and No-Sew
Watch the video below to learn how to make a face mask with a t-shirt and scissors for coronavirus. A filter can also be added for additional protection.
The N95 respirators offers the best filtration and a very good fit, making N95 repirators the most effective masks available. N95 masks filter 95% of particles, which is why they are called N95.
- Effective: Best filtration of all face masks
- Fit: Creates a tight seal around the face
One time use only
- Can be uncomfortable to wear
- Can be difficult to breathe through
- Should not be purchased by the general public due to a shortage for health care workers.
PM2.5 Surgical Masks
The PM2.5 surgical masks were originally designed for those living in areas with high air pollution levels.
- PM2.5 masks provide good filtration (62%-65%), though not as much as N95 masks.
- The fit on surgical masks is oftentimes loose and does not create a seal around the face. However, the design of these masks primarily sends air upwards to minimize the spread of microscopic particles. Additionally, they typically feature a metal piece at the top that can formed to the bridge of the nose for a more secure fit.
The PM2.5 face masks are uncomfortable, and only designed to be effectively used once. Additionally, the fit does not create a complete seal around the wearer’s mouth and nose; wearing this face mask in close contact to others may expose the wearer to more airborne particles. Like the N95 masks, the PM2.5 masks should be reserved for those in high-risk situations, such as medical professionals and first responders.
Adding a filter to your cloth face mask adds an extra layer of protection and filtration. However, some of the filters available are conterfeit and are not as effective as authentic filters. There are a few things to consider when searching for face mask filters online.
What are face mask filters made of?
Most of the face mask filters available online are advertised as PM2.5 filters; many of these filters, however, do not provide the claimed level of filtration. Filters are made using nonwoven melt-blown fabric. Unlike the woven and knitted fabrics that are typically used to make clothing, nonwoven melt-blown fabric is made using hot, fast blowing air. This creates layered sheets of bonded, tangled fibers, making a mesh-like material that is ideal for filtration. Manufacturing melt-blown fabric requires the use of specific machines that are designed to produce nonwoven fabrics; it can take 6 months or longer to make one of these complicated, expensive machines. For this reason, many of the filters available do not actually contain melt-blown fabric.
Where are filters made? Are filters made in China?
Because creating melt-blown fabric requires the use of specialized machinery, the vast majority of filters are made in China. After recent news of conterfeit 3M masks arriving in the U.S. from China, many consumers are concerned about purchasing filters made in China; however, nearly all medical masks and filters, including legitimate masks, are made in China.
How do I know which filters are effective? Where do I buy face masks?
While there are some regulations in place concerning the manufacturing and shipment of masks and filters, not all filters available online are legitimate. We recommend purchasing face masks from trusted companies who have done the research to ensure you receive authentic filters that were manufactured in a sterile facility. We do not recommend purchasing filters on Amazon, as buying directly from China increases the likelihood that regulations have been circumvented, and the filters are conterfeit.
How much do filters cost?
The price of filters can vary. Because melt-blown fabric is in such high demand world-wide and making it is so specialized, there is a global shortage of melt-blown fabric. This has made the price of masks and filters containing melt-blown fabric significantly higher. Be wary of filters with too-good-to-true prices, as they likely do not contain melt-blown fabric.
How many times can I wear a filter?
Like medical masks, filters are single-use and disposable. For maximum protection, you should dispose of your filter before you wash your mask.
Home-Made Face Mask Filters
Filters for face masks are in short supply. If filters are not available, you can actually create home-made filters using ordinary items you may already have. DIY filters vary greatly in effectiveness, but they may still add additional filtration to your face mask. Many wonder which filters are safe to use in face masks; we will answer your questions below.
Coffee Filters for Face Masks
The CDC recommends using a coffee filter in your cloth face mask to add extra filtration. Coffee filters are safe to use as filter, even if they come into direct contact with your face. They provide a lower level of filtration than some other options, but they are easily available and still improve the effectiveness of your face mask. If you are using coffee filters in your face mask, make sure to use at least three layers.
HVAC, HEPA, and Air Conditioner Filters for Face Masks
Designed to act as filters for household appliances, HVAC and HEPA filters have shown to provide excellent filtration; because of this, many are using these filters in their cloth face masks. However, it is unclear if they are safe to use.
HVAC and HEPA filters can contain fiberglass, which is not safe to breathe.
Even if they do not contain fiberglass, companies who create these these filters have cautioned against using them in face masks.
If you do choose to take the risk to wear these filters in your face mask, make sure there is a secure layer of fabric between your face and the filter to protect you from fiberglass and potentially harmful chemicals.
Vacuum Cleaner Bags
Like air conditioner filters, vacuum cleaner bags provide excellent filtration; however, they may also contain fiberglass, making them potentially dangerous. It is also important to note that vacuum cleaner bags are difficult to breathe through. If you choose to take the risk to use a vacuum cleaner bag as a filter in your cloth face mask, make sure there is a layer of fabric separating between the bag and your face to protect you.
Do Masks Protect You or Others from Viruses?
According to the CDC, the reason to wear a face mask is not necessarily to protect one’s self from viruses, but to contain the virus and prevent those who are already infected from spreading it to others. Coronavirus is often asymptomatic and a large percentage of coronavirus transmission comes from those who do not have symptoms. The recommendation to wear face masks is a precaution that advises us to act as if we are already infected with coronavirus, but are asymptomatic. The bottom line: the advice to wear a mask is meant to protect others in the event the wearer of the mask is infected with coronavirus.
This also means that if more people wear face masks, more people will be protected.
Research is limited on this topic, and it hard to know how well face masks (excluding N95 respirators) protect the wearer from contracting a virus. However, we do know they offer some level of filtration. While many face masks cannot block out ultra-microscopic droplets, they may be able to block larger droplets, which are thought to be the primary transmitter of coronavirus. If the wearer also practices proper social distancing and sanitation recommendations, wearing face masks properly and consistently could add an additional level of virus protection.
How to Wear Face Masks with Glasses
If you are a glasses-wearer, you have likely noticed that your glasses get foggy when you’re wearing a face mask. This is because wearing a mask sends your breath through the gaps in the mask. There are a couple of things you can do to help prevent your glasses from fogging up:
- Make sure your face mask is tight enough and fits well. This will help to minimize gaps around the eye area.
- Strategically place your glasses on top of the mask to block the gaps under the eyes and make your mask more fitted to your face. It will take some trial and error, but once you discover the correct position, this is a very effective way to keep your glasses from fogging.
Staying home is only part of the solution for “flattening the curve”. Many of us still need to go to work and run the occasional errand, such as getting groceries or checking the mail. To protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19, be sure to continually wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and wear a mask to protect yourself. We hope all our readers and their families/friends remain healthy and safe during this time. Please let us know if you have any other tips or questions in the comments section below. While a face mask cannot necessarily prevent you from catching a virus, wearing a mask in combination with other saftety measures for coronavirus can effectively help you do your part to flatten the curve.
What type of face mask will you be wearing? Let us know in the comments below.