What to Look for When Buying a Face Mask


After the initial bewilderment and confusion during the earlier days of the pandemic, it has been made clear that wearing face masks indeed helps against COVID-19. It is advocated by the CDC to cover the face while in public, particularly within enclosed areas such as food markets, pharmacies, and stores. That is why it is crucial to use a face mask, along with following the other recommendations for safety. However, medical-grade PPE should be earmarked for hospitals and healthcare professionals, while disposable and fabric face masks can suffice for everyday folks.

As there are plenty of face masks available, the question arises which one should you purchase? As well as, what are the things you should be looking for when buying a face mask? Masks are in short supply, and shipping times are sluggish despite accelerated manufacturing to fulfill the enormous worldwide requirement and demand. We are here to answer these questions and what you should know before buying face masks. Face masks limit the spread of the virus, as they catch the airborne droplets before coming into contact with the wearer when someone coughs or sneezes. 

When to Wear Face Masks?

It would be best if you put on facemasks everywhere, especially around places where social distancing cannot be observed, like at a store or a pharmacy. An alarming number of COVID-19 patients have contracted the virus after coming into contact with individuals that had no symptoms or were pre-symptomatic. By using a face mask, you can trap the droplets of the virus, you could very well be exhaling. Even though face masks are not perfect, they appear to minimize the risk by acting as a barrier between you and the viral pathogens; therefore, you should wear them.

It is beneficial to remember that fabric face masks aren’t 100 percent successful in shielding against this virus’ transmission. As pointed out by the CDC, however, the barrier is thought to impede the transmission of infection.

What to Look for When Buying a Face Mask?

Guidelines provided by the CDC provide the following points:

  • A snug and comfortable fit around the face.
  • Can be fastened together using ear loops or hair ties.
  • Includes several layers of cloth.
  • Does not restrict breathing in any way.
  • For cloth face masks, they should be washable and dryable without damaging the shape or fabric.

As for the ideal face mask material, the CDC has shown a sample, designed from layers of cotton cloth, fastened with hair ties or elastics. They have also added that if nothing else is available, you may use a bandana or a t-shirt to cover your face. The CDC advocates incorporating a coffee filter in the homemade masks to mimic the protection of medical-grade facemasks. Layers of paper towels can also be inserted to achieve the same effect.

Disposable Masks

Undoubtedly, disposable medical masks, such as the N95 along with the similar FFP-2 respirator masks from Europe, are highly effective in filtering droplets in the air. They are engineered to filter up to 95 percent of particles during breathing– right down to the diameter of 0.3 micrometers. As these masks are classified as medical-grade and could be challenging to acquire, there are non-medical PPE options available like the NewRain KN95 Protective Masks. These KN95 rating masks filter out 95% of particulates in the air and can be worn comfortably for 16 hours. 

What is the Best Fabric Type for Cloth Mask? 

Different fabric types have space between yarns, that is specific to the particular variety. This means that different cloth types have smaller or larger “holes,” depending on the material they are made from. It impacts their efficacy against the airborne coronavirus pathogens, and virus-laden droplets or particles that might pass through these air pockets. Therefore, fabric types with smaller holes between yarns are more effective as a face mask material, as they will offer maximum filtration. 

Fabric Should be Tightly Woven

Tightly woven and dense fabrics provide optimal security because they have the smallest spaces between yarns. When making or purchasing cloth masks, try to find material that is woven, such as those with a higher thread count.

Multiple Fabric Layers

Studies reveal that although adding layers increases the potency to filter viral pathogens, it can make breathing difficult. This is why it is crucial to have harmony between breathability and filtration, which can be achieved by adding just a couple of layers of cloth.

Try to Avoid Using Bandanas

A study conducted by Missouri S&T engineers analyzed furnace filters, pillowcases, and bandanas to determine their usefulness as filter material. From the tested items, bandanas were the least effective. It is because mostly, bandanas are lightly woven, which could let aerosols penetrate the fabric with ease.

Properly Covers Face

For a mask to provide maximum safety, it should adequately cover your nose and mouth. The mask should fit snug on your face and not leave any open space where the pathogens could infiltrate. 

Covering Your Face is Important

Covering your face is essential, and it should be practiced using whatever material you have at your disposal. Remember, using something as a face mask is still better than not wearing anything. Wearing face masks protects others from contracting the virus or spreading it, and serves as the first line of defense; so it should be taken seriously. 

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