September 09, 2021

DIY vs. Buy? Face Covering Basics & Must Haves

The same principles ultimately apply when making your own mask or buying a new face covering. Follow these simple steps when choosing a mask or designing your own to ensure you end up with the best mask for you:

  1. Secure fitting: ask yourself if the mask sits snugly around your face, covering your nose and mouth without feeling constricting. This is very important, a mask that doesn’t sit comfortably and hug the sides of your face will not only irritate you if worn for extended periods of time, it also won’t provide the necessary protection. Ensure there are no gaps where air can leak out carrying respiratory droplets. A nose wire will help ensure a snug fit.
  2. Breathability: Ensure the material is breathable. Look for multi-layered tight woven cotton, cotton-polyester blends or linen. Avoid masks made out of fleece as they do not provide the filtration needed to protect you and others around you. 
  3. Fit for purpose:What are you buying the mask for? Exercise, leisure, public facing work? Different materials are more suitable for different purposes, for example spandex and polyester are moisture wicking fabrics that will allow you to work out in them, whilst stylish thin fabrics may look good but be less suitable than multi-layered woven cotton for someone who works in a public facing job. 
  4. Stays in place:Your mask shouldn't slip off your face and need constant adjustment. Not only could you contaminate your mask by constantly pulling it up, it also is less protective and simply irritating to do so. Make sure you choose adjustable or elastic ear loops which ensure a snug fit. 
  5. Machine washable:For longer term use, masks should be machine washable without damaging the structure or shape of the mask. A multiple use mask is the most sustainable option, read here for why you need a reusable face mask.
  6. Multi-layered: For maximum protection, look for masks that are multi-layered and avoid those which look thin and poor quality. Multiple layers of fabric will ensure respiratory droplets cannot pass through the material easily. 
steps when choosing a mask or designing your own to ensure you end up with the best mask for you:

Worst fabrics for face masks that you should avoid

It’s clear by now that you should keep your face mask dry and clean, but what materials should you avoid when buying or making a face covering? 

It’s recommended not to buy masks made out of fleece. Fleece masks actually act to increase the number of respiratory droplets being released into the air. 

Scarves, neck gaiters, and other face covers were designed to keep you warm, not stop the spread of water droplets. Many of these materials are too thin or simply fail to trap moisture. When it’s cold, wear your mask underneath a scarf to ensure the protection of yourself and others around you. If you only have a neck warmer to hand, fold it over so that you have at least two layers covering your mouth and nose. 

Worst fabrics for face masks that you should avoid

How often do I need to wash my mask? 

There’s no one size fits all approach to washing your mask, a touch of common sense is therefore required. 

If you’re working from home, it's likely you wear your mask less frequently and therefore don’t need to wash it every day. One alternative to washing after every use is to have a number of masks on you so you can rotate through them. This might be particularly useful for someone who is in a humid, warm climate or someone doing regular exercise in their mask. 

If you are worried you’ve been exposed or have come into contact with someone who is possibly symptomatic, wash your mask immediately on a 60 degree wash. A similar principle should be applied if you are seeing someone vulnerable, wash your mask beforehand.  

Once you’ve washed your mask, make sure it still fits snuggly against your face. Cotton is a tough material that actually gets stronger when wet. As a rule of thumb, it can therefore be washed at 60 degrees without losing its shape. Synthetics are more likely to shrink. It’s worth checking the care label on your mask before washing. 

It is still important to wash the fabric at a high enough temperature in order to kill any bacteria. This is particularly important for masks that are regularly used or exercised in, as damp masks can become a breeding ground for bugs and moisture will help retain the virus.

How often do I need to wash my mask?


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