Look good or breathe: some fashion masks are better than others
We can’t all be Nancy Pelosi — who Hillary Clinton recently called “Leader of the House Majority, and of mask-to-pantsuit color coordination.” But as face masks become less of a “last resort” they are becoming more of a style statement. New York fashion house Proenza Schouler produced $100 U.S. satin masks (sold out, sorry) to benefit the city’s COVID-19 emergency relief fund. Sentletse Diakanyo, a luxury furniture designer in Johannesburg, is making designer masks from leftover upholstery pieces.
The question is how to balance form and function. Since they’re not made from an air-permeable material, air is likely to go around the edges of a leather mask, rendering its protective qualities moot. As one Twitter troll quipped, “And the breathing? Do you just do it all in advance?” Best to leave these ones at home or risk become a social media meme.
Simple material may be best. Canadian government guidelines say reusable cloth masks should be made of at least two layers of tightly-woven fabric, such as cotton or linen. In a new study published by the American Chemical Society, researchers from the University of Chicago tested the filtration efficiencies of common fabrics, including cotton, silk, and polyester-spandex chiffon.
Using a fan blowing aerosol particles at typical resting breathing rate, the scientists measured the number and size of particles in the air before and after it passed through each mask. Those made with a combination of fabrics — one tightly woven cotton sheet with two layers of chiffon (90 per cent polyester and 10 per cent spandex) — filtered out 80 to 99 per cent of aerosol particles, making them nearly as effective as an N95 mask.
Substituting chiffon with natural silk or flannel produced similar results, as did a cotton quilt with cotton-polyester batting. Researchers also report that high-thread count fabrics (like cotton) act as a mechanical barrier to aerosols, while fabrics that hold a static charge (like some chiffon and silks) can serve as an electrostatic barrier.
Fit is key too. Even a one-per-cent gap in the mask reduced the filtering efficiency of all masks by 60 per cent or more. It’s important to wash masks after every use to avoid cross-contamination, as well, so having more than one is useful.
You can still aspire to Instagram likes: “Only taking this off for wine” reads Montreal brand Pony’s 100 per cent polyester mask ($36/two).
Montreal-based Frank and Oak are also selling 100 percent reusable and adjustable cotton face masks. They’re double-layered and include a pouch for inserting additional filters. (They’ve also shared their sewing pattern and instructions online.) The masks come in sets of two for $24. All proceeds will be donated to Moisson Montréal, which distributes food donations and basic commodities to those in need.
Vancouver-based apparel company Kit and Ace is making reusable cotton face masks with an inner silk lining and adjustable nose clips for $15 each. They will be available the first week of June. All proceeds will be donated.
Moji FrontLine series cotton masks, $17 each, are made by seamstresses who have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. All proceeds go to CanadaHelps COVID-19 Healthcare & Hospital Fund.
Roots Canada is selling reusable face masks made in Toronto’s leather factory. They’re made of a blend of cotton and polyester and include a slip pocket in which additional filters, such as HEPA filters, can be added in. They’re priced at $22, and for every mask sold, Roots will donate a portion of proceeds to the Frontline Fund, to help Canadian frontline healthcare workers.
These double-layered bamboo cotton masks from Olive + Splash are hypoallergenic and come in sizes ranging from XXS children to XXL adults. Shipping is provided across Canada or if you’re in Burlington, Ont., you can skip the wait and pick up via the storefront’s drive-thru. Masks are $25 each or $50 for a package of three.
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