Top 10 Cloth Facemask Styles for 2021
|Wearing facemasks. Photo: Atrium Health|
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all citizens wear nonmedical face masks to slow the spread of Covid-19. Earlier this year, we wrote about how to make your own mask. But months into the pandemic, a number of new studies have shown that simple T-shirts or bandanas might not be the most effective face coverings to reduce spread.
These are some of the masks that I and other WIRED staff members have used and recommend. I've also highlighted sustainable options, ones from diverse and small manufacturers, as well as companies donating to worthy causes. Try a few and stay safe! And remember to keep washing your hands regularly, staying at home when possible, and maintaining at least a 6-foot distance from others in public (preferably outdoors).
Tom Bihn V4 Cotton Flannel Reusable Face Mask
After months of testing, the Tom Bihn masks have held up to almost daily use and constant washing and line-drying. The company has come out with several versions, but my favorite is still this soft 2-layer cotton flannel one with a neck strap so I can pull it off my face when I'm far away from people.
It passes both the light and the candle test—I can blow at a candle until I get lightheaded without blowing out the flame. There's also some evidence that cotton with visible fibers may be one of the most effective materials at slowing the spread.
Since it's flannel, it's a little warmer than some of the other masks we've tried. But I'm happy to report it doubles as a cozy face warmer now that the temperature has dropped. The masks are also handmade in Seattle, and for every mask you buy, Tom Bihn donates one to a local charity. You can track those donations in a public spreadsheet.
Lululemon Double Strap Mask
This mask is made from Lululemon's signature soft Ultralu fabric, so it's stretchy and silky against your face. The double head straps are soft and elasticky as well. This is one of my favorite masks, because it's comfortable to wear around my neck and easy to pull on and off when I'm outside. Since it doesn't have ear loops, I also don't knock my headphones out of my ears if I wear it while running. It flutters in and out of stock, so check the website for updates.
Sunday Afternoons UV Shield Cool Face Mask
If I'm not wearing the Lululemon mask while running outside, I'm probably wearing this one from Sunday Afternoons on a mask lanyard (I like soft, durable ones made from paracord). It's made from a UV-protective fabric and comfortably fits my medium-sized face. It also passes both the light and candle tests.
An almost identical mask I also like is Boco Gear's Performance X Mask ($13). With this mask, I'm a size small. I wore it almost every other day through August and September, but I did eventually rip off one of the ear loops. I sewed it back on, but it's worth mentioning, as you're probably reading this because you can't sew.
Marta Scarampi Greta Waterproof Mask
I live in rainy Portland, Oregon, and I spend a lot of time outside. There are few sensations that are more unpleasant than pulling a cold, wet mask over your face while on a hike. Marta Scarampi is an Italian fashion designer, and her waterproof face masks are made from Econyl, a recycled nylon fabric made from harvested ocean plastic and other waste. They have also been treated with a water repellent coating. They will repel water, but they're also pretty heavy. I recommend these for heavy rain—for light drizzle, you may as well stick to a lighter mask made from synthetic wicking material.
PADI Gear Recycled Plastic Cloth Face Mask
Buying a mask can be a convenient and easy way to support causes you love. The Professional Association of Dive Instructors is currently selling fun, marine-printed masks made from polyester harvested from ocean waste. The masks are machine washable and quick-drying, and they come with five replaceable activated-carbon filters. The masks are sold at cost, so PADI doesn't make a profit. At checkout, you're also given the option to donate a small amount to Project Aware, which is PADI's nonprofit organization that helps volunteer scuba divers mobilize around local causes like coral reef protection and beach cleaning.
Etsy Custom Face Masks
We've been recommending readers go to Etsy for homemade, nonmedical masks. For the quickest shipping times, you can filter your searches by custom location to find mask makers close to your zip code. Don't forget to check that the mask you're purchasing fits CDC requirements.
WIRED Senior Writer Lauren Goode likes face masks from this Etsy shop. Unfortunately, we can't recommend the many "drinking masks" that are available with straws holes that allow you to sip on a drink while wearing a mask. A hole in the mask defeats the purpose of the mask.
Vistaprint Fabric Face Mask
Vistaprint's masks are popular, stretchy, extremely comfortable, and machine washable. They come in a plethora of chic designs and have adjustable earloops and a pocket for a filter, which Vistaprint makes itself (no cutting up vacuum bags here!). It also makes incredibly cute kid masks that fit my 5-year-old perfectly. However, they're not made from breathable cotton. The outer layer is 100 percent polyester. In summer's damp humidity, my breath soaked through these and left them dripping in a matter of minutes.
Society6 Artist Face Mask
WIRED's Kimberly Chua also likes these masks from Society6 and LookHuman. They're comfortable, fit well, and come in both pleated and flat mask styles. Chua notes they have a lot of fun designs, which is an important incentive to encourage people to wear them. They also have filter pockets.
Blue Camo Salvage Mask
If you're going to wear a mask every day, it should probably be a mask you really love. WIRED Photo Editor Phuc Pham loves these salvaged masks made by Goodfight, a POC-founded and owned label. The one-size-fits-all cotton masks can be worn independently or as a cover for an N95 mask to extend its life. For every mask sold, Goodfight donates a mask to a local institution in need.
Timbuk2 Face Mask 3-Pack
We love Timbuk2's messenger bags, and the company now makes masks in its San Francisco factory. WIRED Senior Editor Michael Calore likes the reusable masks, which come in two different sizes. Use a flexible measuring tape to measure from ear to ear across the bridge of your nose to find the best fit.
The masks are made from jersey cotton and have a pocket for holding a filter. Unlike some of our other picks, which loop behind the ears, these tie around the head. It makes them a little harder to pop on and off, but more comfortable for extended wear. This might be a good option if you need to wear your mask all day, every day.
How do face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Masks provide a simple barrier to help prevent these respiratory droplets from spreading in the air. You should wear a mask to protect others in case you have the virus, and you should wear a mask to protect yourself.
Do children need to wear face masks?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) children may be less affected, but they have a greater number of contacts in school and in public areas. Further studies are underway to assess the risk of infection in children and to better understand transmission in this age group, but the WHO recommends that children over age two should wear masks in community settings were physical distancing is not possible.
Parents should take the time to teach their children that along with handwashing and physical distancing, wearing a face mask can help protect everyone and is a way to show kindness and caring, according to UNICEF.
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