Which Mask Is Right for You and How Should You Care for It?

Woman Wearing Face Mask — Buffalo, MN — Stellis Health

Not sure which type of face mask to wear? How to care for it? Read on to see the top face mask questions answered.

Which Face Mask Is the Best Choice?

With a constantly growing number of cloth and disposable face masks available, it’s understandable that you may feel some level of confusion. Should you choose a mask with a filter pocket? Do you need a cloth mask, or is a disposable option acceptable? Can you find a mask that’s comfortable and provides protection during your workouts? What about the coveted N95 respirator mask?

If you’re not sure which face mask is the right one for you, consider:

  • The number of layers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a mask with either two or three layers to reduce viral spread. A filter (if the mask has a filter pocket) can add an extra level of protection to a two-layer mask.
  • The fit. Whether you choose a reusable or disposable mask, it should fit over your nose and mouth. The mask should also extend to and securely fit under your chin. Look for a mask that also fits against the sides of your face without gapping.
  • The material. Can you breathe in your mask? While it’s normal to feel some sense of constriction, never choose a fabric that makes it difficult to breathe.
  • The thickness. Even though you want to breathe freely, an excessively thin mask won’t provide protection. To judge the thickness, hold the face mask up to a light or shine a flashlight through it. If you can see the light, you need a thicker material or a multilayer mask.
  • The intended use. N95 masks are used by healthcare workers performing certain high risk procedures and require special “fit testing” to make sure they have a tight seal against the face. Reserve these masks for those on the front lines and choose a multilayer reusable or disposable option.
  • The fogging issue. Do you wear glasses? A moldable nose wire can create a snug fit that reduces fogging.
  • The comfort level. What do you feel comfortable wearing? Adjustable ear loops, ties (instead of ear loops), soft fabrics, and nose pads can help you to find the just-right custom fit and feel.

While disposable and reusable multilayer masks are both effective options, cloth options require care and cleaning. Constant use allows dirt, oil (from your face), and microorganisms to build up on the inside and outside of the material. If you choose to reuse, make sure you know how to care for the mask correctly.

How Should You Care for Cloth Face Masks?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, such as what the mask is made from, the manufacturer’s directions, how often you wear the mask, how long you wear the mask, whether you have sensitive skin, and whether you wear makeup and facial products or not.

You don’t necessarily need to wash your mask after every use. If you only wear it for a few minutes as you stand outside and pump gas into your car, chances are you can wear it again before washing the mask. But if you wear the mask in a crowded public space often, for long periods, or see noticeable makeup stains, oil, or dirt on it, you need to clean the mask.

To properly care for your face mask:

  • Remove the mask carefully. Never touch the inside of your mask. This spreads germs from your hands to the part that will cover your mouth and nose.
  • Store the mask in a bag. Place the mask (outside facing out) in a paper or fabric bag for later use.
  • Use the washing machine. If the manufacturer’s directions allow for this type of care, wash the mask with your laundry. Hang the mask to air dry it to prevent shrinkage.
  • Hand wash. You can also hand wash the mask using a mild hand-washing laundry soap.

Regularly inspect cloth masks for tears, stretching, or other signs of wear. These issues can decrease the effectiveness and allow viral particles into your mask. Do you need help staying healthy this winter? Contact Stellis Health for more information.