Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, the demand for face masks has been higher than the U.S. supply can currently support.
Healthcare workers — who are on the frontlines battling the virus — are finding that there is not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe. In a medical setting, surgical masks and N95 respirators are only meant for a one-time use. However, given the situation, many hospitals and urgent care centers are asking their doctors, nurses, and aids to wear the same mask for days (sometimes weeks) at a time.
This is why the Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams has urged the general public to stop buying PPE. While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that N95’s are the most effective in protecting those treating infected patients, there are other strategies others can take to keep themselves safe when they are going out on that important pharmacy or grocery run.
Should I be wearing a face mask outside?
The CDC now recommends that non-healthcare workers wear fabric face coverings when they go out in public. These coverings may include cloth masks or scarves. According to the CDC, the corona virus spreads between people interacting within a close proximity to each other. The virus travels in small respiratory liquid droplets that we exhale when we are talking, sneezing, and coughing. Many people who have the virus and are asymptomatic can spread COVID-19 unconsciously while they are out making their errands. To prevent that, properly made cloth masks can catch the droplets that we spray unknowingly, according to Jeremy Howard, a Distinguished Research Scientist and medical data analyst at the University of San Francisco. “It does appear a mask would stop the transmission of the virus and protect others,” says Howard.
A cloth mask can also help protect you by reducing the amount of the virus you get exposed to. This may reduce the severity of the infection.
“Exposure to a high dose of the virus not only makes your chance of infection higher, it increases your chances of potentially deadlier symptoms,” says Howard.
That being said, it’s important to wear coverage without holes.
Can I buy a fabric face mask?
If you’re not in the mood for crafts, there are many manufacturers and sites are selling their own brand of masks online. As you are clicking through the web, be aware that there are currently no specific guidelines or regulations that say a brand is CDC-approved to be effective against the coronavirus. Still, the fiber scientists in the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Textiles Lab say there are important factors you can look out for when browsing:
- If the masks are made out of fabric, make sure it’s 100% woven cotton
- If you want extra protection, it should have a non-woven interface to filter contaminants, and something to help it fit better around the nose (like a metal piece on the inside)
- Make sure it’s machine washable for reuse
- Make sure it’s readily available. Some suppliers are very delayed on deliveries right now
- You can look for a company that’s donating towards a cause that’s important to you
Where to buy a fabric face mask:
There are a slew of shop owners on Etsy who are selling cloth face masks, but styles, colors, and designs vary, so make sure you’re paying close attention to the description on the seller’s site.
House of Perna
These masks are made with cotton and lined with two layers of non-woven interfacing. If you buy one of their masks, they will donate one to a medical professional. The added bonus is that these come in some really colorful designs. One mask is $25.
Avocado Mattress, one of our top bedding brands, is making masks out of certified organic cotton that are machine washable. These masks do not use plastic as they tie behind the head with cloth straps. Avocado sells them in 4 and 8 packs, and the company claims they are selling them at cost, not for profit.
Love Your Melon
This beanie-making brand has consulted medical professionals as well as tested and refined their mask designs. They sell single-use masks ($10 each) that can be worn over medical grade PPE as well as reusable cotton surgical masks ($15 each) for adults and kids. They also have a BOGO program and 50% of their net profits are donated to the fight against pediatric cancer.
If you’re looking for fun, nostalgic designs featuring Wonder Woman, Care Bears, Popeye, Betty Boop and more, MaskClub has got you covered. Literally. They have a subscription-based buy one, donate one program that benefits the First Responders Children’s Foundation. Their masks are actually made out of 100% polyester, but they are doubly layered for proper protection. Each mask is $13.99 or you can subscribe for $9.99 to get a new one each month.
Rendall Co is a new workwear company that’s developed two mask design that both feature: two layers of woven cotton, a pocket to insert your own filters, and copper nose bands for a snug fit. They sell for $19 each or $65 for a pack of four. For each mask you buy, they will give a mask to essential workers and non-profits serving the homeless.
This Utah-based company makes masks out of 100% cotton with straps that tie around the head. They’ve partnered with a local cut-and-sew factory to support jobs in Salt Lake City. For each mask that is made, one will be given to a community member in need of PPE. They sell for $7 each.
Averill’s Sharper Uniforms
If you want to order face masks in bulk, Averill’s is a great source. They are a uniform manufacturing company out of Los Angeles and they claim that they are able to produce tens of thousands per week. All the profits made from sales will go towards local hospitals. They sell them in assorted color packs of 12 ($5 per mask) and 500 ($4 per mask).
The Collective at Indigo Style
This vintage clothing store based in Brooklyn has stylish African-inspired masks made of cotton. Their ear loops are made of a fabric lining for comfort. For every 8 masks purchased, 50 are donated to laundry, grocery store, hospital, and transit workers in New York City. Adult masks are $25 while kid masks are $15.
We like VIDA’s masks because they come with adjustable straps as well as filters that can be (and should be) replaced every seven days. They can be worn by kids (ages 5 and up) and adults. Ten percent of their profits are going to support the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and Food Bank NYC. One mask is $10.
Naturepedic is a mattress company that makes 100% organic cotton masks with adjustable straps. They emphasize that they are not making these masks for profit. They sell in 6-packs, $49 an order.
This fashion-forward scrub design company has released a face mask line that is just as stylish. Their product is manufactured with antimicrobial-finished scrub fabric so that the masks last longer. For each mask that is purchased, one will be donated to an organization in need including Baby2Baby, a nonprofit organization that provides children living in poverty with basic necessities. Adult and children’s masks are sold in packs (five for $25).
The owners of this small sports brand quickly shifted their operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now pumping out 2-ply washable cotton masks for $6.99 each. StringKing also makes disposable 3-layer face masks for $39.99 a box.
House of X
This luxury suit suit brand has made masks that will have you looking like a Mortal Kombat character. But judging from their specs, these masks seem to be effective and comfortable. This product optimizes breathability and features a pocket for interchangeable filters. Each one costs $29.99. They also have other designs that start at $16.99 a pop.
SwaddleDesigns is a baby blanket brand run by a registered nurse. They are currently manufacturing masks made of 2-layers of double-napped cotton flannel for extra protection. Each mask costs $9.99.
Casetify’s masks are made with breathable cotton fabric. They are washable and fitted with a filter that has been crafted with non-woven materials. The company has pledged to donate 10,000 masks to DirectRelief, a nonprofit dedicated to improving “the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay”. If you buy one reusable mask ($15), one surgical mask will be donated to a health care worker in need.
If you are a Disney fan, now you can sport some of your favorite, lovable characters. They sell masks in three different sizes and are made of cotton and polyester. They sell in packs of four for $19.99 each. Current designs include Star Wars, Disney Princesses, Micky and Minnie, Stitch, and Winnie the Pooh.
Sports lovers may not be able to see their teams on the court for a while, but at least they can still support in spirit with a mask from the NBA Store. Their masks are 100% cotton with elastic closures. All proceeds will be donated to Feeding America and Second Harvest Canada. They are also donating one mask for each mask purchased. You can grab one for $14.99 each.
This fashion brand makes cotton masks with adjustable noses and DIY adjustable straps. They come in packs of three for $30. LA Apparel is using the money they make from purchases to donate masks to essential services and manufacture hospital gowns for health care workers.
Custom Ink makes masks that are a single-ply blend of 95% cotton and 5% spandex. They promise a breathable product that has been minimally handled by human touch. You can even customize your own design. They sell in group packs as low as 12 for $30. Super affordable!
Their Essential Lifestyle Fashion Masks have two layers of cotton muslin as well as a filter made of non-woven material. Even though they are machine washable, they are meant to be tossed after a few uses. You can get all of their designs (five) for $28. With each purchase they will donate masks to organizations in need.
PPE Safety Masks
For quality disposable masks, this Michigan company makes a 3-ply product made of fire retardant material that they claim is extremely effective in for protecting you against dust, allergens, air pollution. Each 25-piece pack is $27.99.