How do you tell if a washable mask id good & where do you get one?

Need answer fast. Really fast.

Turns out my summer job is on– I haven’t been getting the emails they’ve been sending out, for some reason-- and it starts next Tuesday. And I’m going to have to wear a mask six hours a day, five days a week, so I don’t think my rota of lightly-used surgical masks is going to cut it.

The problem is… I don’t think many cloth masks are going to cut it, either. I have a cloth mask from Chabad of Boca Raton in my room; it’s made of a thin, stretchy fabric and doesn’t fit properly. I suspect if you just sit down and order the first mask you see on the internet, you’re not going to get something that’s very good at keeping you healthy. What am I supposed to be looking out for?

The purpose of a mask is not to protect you from other people. The purpose is to protect other people from you. Just my opinion, but as long as someone’s mask stops his spittle from spraying in my direction, that’s good enough.

Look for 100% cotton, tightly woven (quilting cotton is excellent), double layered, with a pocket you can insert a third layer into (something nonwoven like a paper towel or a shop cloth). You want something you can tie behind your head because the elastic over the ears will hurt after awhile.

I don’t know how reliable the following is however…

  • if you have one to spare, light your paper mask with a flame. It should disintegrate rather than burn.

  • a genuine paper mask should also be able to hold water. Not sure if that would be true with a homemade fabric mask but it should at least not leak through too quickly.

  • if you can blow a lighter out through your mask then it is also too thin.

Here’s the associated video with examples of each:

…there’s another thing about light in that video but not sure about that one.

Apologies: my answer was about paper masks, plus it isn’t much help if you’re shopping for one.

Our local thrift store has homemade masks with both ties and ear elastics for a couple of bucks each. Our local Nextdoor page has postings from several people who make and sell masks for very little money. Maybe you could check into those options? I’d much rather spend a couple of bucks for a mask that I might hate than spend 20 bucks to order online and hope it arrives on time, only to learn that I hate it.

Cloth masks will not protect you, they are to protect others. I have read that opening a seam and slipping a coffee maker filter inside will make a cloth mask protect you better, but I haven’t tried it.

Personally, I focus on comfort and appearance. I am a girl, I am totally not going to walk around with a boring old monochrome mask covering half my face.

The “gold standard” mask is the N-95 mask. Unfortunately getting your hands on one is virtually impossible, and if you find one you might be better off donating it to a hospital. I bought some KN-95 masks (from China), which had a certificate saying they were tested and good, but this might be inaccurate.

Getting the wrong mask is not putting you at risk, so you should not personally fear getting the wrong type of mask. Of course, I assume you are concerned about other people, but the only way to be sure you have a good mask is to get one from a company that normally manufactures these, and they’re selling in bulk to hospitals, not in small numbers of individuals.

Look on Etsy for masks, using the guidelines **Ulfreida **suggests. I have felt more comfortable and sure buying a mask from those sources than any company.

If you need one ASAP send me your address and I’ll send you one of my spares. It’s made of quilting cotton with a pouch for a filter. You can use it until you get what you’re looking for from Etsy…they tend to take a while to ship. But you will want a few masks, as you need to be washing them regularly.

While this is good advice, you might as well get a mask which offers you some personal protection from those around you. The sad fact is that not enough people are taking your advice to heart. It’s likely that there will be many people with either no masks or masks which do a trivial job at blocking droplets. So without being able to count on the community to wear masks, each of us needs to wear the best filtering mask we can get in order to be safe.

One thing to look for is a mask which has a wire or something in the bridge so it can be shaped to fit tightly over the bridge of your nose. Many cloth masks will gap along the sides of your nose which allows unfiltered air to pass through. And overall fit will be important as well. Regardless of the quality of the mask, if it has gaps along the edges it will decrease the efficiency. Different masks are shaped differently, so you may have to try different masks to find one with a good fit.

I’m sure by now you have bought various masks but thought I’d throw my 2 cents in.

My husband is complaining about both the paper and cloth masks I bought for him. So I just bought online at etsy a “beard friendly” mask for him. I’d bought 2 for my sons who both sport bushy beards. Hubby is always clean shaven but he’s a big guy. These masks look much like a handkerchief worn by train robbers, hang from under the eyes to low to the neckline and have a plastic doodad to hook the elastic to for less ear pain. They also have a pouch to add a filter.

If that one doesn’t suit him he can pony up the cash and buy others :wink:

surgical masks can now be purchased again, I think, although the prices are higher than they used to be. I don’t want to be marked as spam, so I won’t include links, but both “all heart” (a medical stuff supply company) and 1000 bulbs (a lightbulb company that must be leveraging their Chinese contacts) have advertised masks to me recently, and both are companies that I’ve bought other stuff from in the past and they delivered what they promised. That is, I think they are real companies selling what they claim to sell. I looked up “all heart” because I bought some face masks from them several years ago, but there are a lot of similar companies, and I bet several of them will sell you masks.

Using a new surgical mask every day might be more expensive that cloth masks from etsy, but they are very comfortable, come with a moldable nose bridge, and probably give you more protection than cloth (especially if you don’t add a filter to the cloth mask.) It’s probably worth pricing them out.

Also, you can make any mask fit snugly by cutting a band out of an old nylon stocking and fitting the whole thing around your head, over the mask.

Finally, do insert a filter – for you. They say that almost any material other than what the mask is made of will help, because the two different materials generate a static charge (like socks in the drier) and that helps attract particles. The N95 masks (and the hepa filters in HVAC systems and vacuum cleaner bags) are designed to hold a charge, too.

I’ve gotten a pack of five cotton masks (don’t fit well) from Amazon and have two of a different model on the way.

It turns out my job isn’t actually starting for another two weeks, so I have more time to shop than I thought.

The impression I get from your description is that kind of mask will help protect those people in the area rather than the person wearing it. That is, it sounds like it might impede the droplets he exhales, but it may not do much to prevent him from inhaling the virus. That’s fine if that’s his choice, but be sure he knows what kind of risk he’s taking.

The note about a pouch to add a filter is also something worth mentioning. Masks sometimes have them, but air won’t automatically go through the filter unless it’s forced to do so. If there’s room around the sides of the filter for the air to travel, it will take the easiest path. To test the filter pouch, put something non-porous in it, like printer paper, and see how easy it is to breathe. If the filter pouch works, it should be very difficult to breathe since air can’t go through the paper. If it’s easy to breathe, then you know air is going around the filter pouch.

A good mask will take some effort to breathe through. It’s certainly understandable to want a mask which doesn’t impede breathing, but realize that comes at the cost of less efficient filtering.

I just replaced my AC filter. I’ve always hired someone to “service the AC” before, but didn’t feel like having someone traipse through my house this year. So… I bought a few filters, hoping some would fit. And all but one of them do (yay) and now the filthy filter is in the trash, and a clean shiney filter is in my house…

This is a long preamble to say I found myself with a spare AC filter that didn’t fit. So I have removed the fabric from it (and discarded the cardboard box and wire frame) and I inserted a piece of that between two layers of cotton mask. I think this is going to be a decent balance between “gives me some protection” and “can breathe through it”. I had been using a piece cut out of a HEPA vacuum cleaner bag, but that was pretty hard to breath through.

To avoid the “air goes around it” problem, I used the nylon stocking trick I described above.