Masks

I wish I could post links and pictures, but I’m afraid that my favorite etsy shop makes it pretty clear where I live!

I have, at this point, tried several different designs of masks.

The cheapest per-use masks by far are from the Old Navy variety packs.  These are $2.50/mask.  They are triple ply and, I think, reasonably cute.  The children’s are especially cute on DC2. They do not have any nose guards or anything, they’re just the accordion style mask.   They fog up my glasses when I wear glasses.  They sometimes ride up my nose and cover the bottom of my eyes, which makes me understand why so many people wear their masks under their noses.  I am not a fan.  But I did buy a ton of these and I will be handing them out to people who have forgotten their masks.

The most adorable masks are those from redbubble, where they have so many cute Ms. Frizzle-worthy designs.  Unfortunately they’re only double-ply and they’re kind of thin.  They’re not uncomfortable, but they don’t really adhere to my face as much as I’d like.  I’ll still be wearing them, but over a one-layer balaclava.  I would say this combination is overpriced, but my students will likely appreciate it.

What I like best are the etsy triple ply cup design masks with bendable nose guards.  I like the ear loops (cloth, not elastic) better than the ribbons, so far.  After a day spent teaching I might prefer the ribbons.  But we will see.  These generally cost ~$12-$25/mask depending on how popular the place you’re getting it is from on Etsy.  The place I use is on the cheaper end of that scale and I found it by searching for my university’s name and facemask.  Turns out there are local seamstresses filling a need.

Have you gotten masks yet?  What kind do you prefer?  Any links to your favorite shops?

50 Responses to “Masks”

  1. Lucy Says:

    I use FFP2 or FFP3 masks, or Nsomething 95, depending on how closed a space is (used FFP3 to go to the hospital with my mom). We get them through the pharmacy or Amazon and the state has given out several of these too. From what I see walking around the city, most people (in an European capital) use surgical or FFP2/Nsomething 95, a few cloth. I am genuinely curious about why cloth masks are being used because they are not certified to block viruses, unfiltered air comes in through the sides, etc and they are not cheap either (unless someone does their own).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Because we in the United States don’t have enough of the kind that protect individuals to go to health care workers because the president refuses to invoke emergency powers to increase production.

      • Steph Says:

        N95s also need to be the correct size and fit to be effective against small particles like COVID – if you haven’t gone through the (intensive) fitting process that healthcare workers do, then there’s not a lot of point to using them in this case. Leakage will reduce the efficiency.

        There are starting to be more disposable surgical-style masks available in CVS/grocery stores near me, so I think those are fine. It grosses me out that people reuse them a bunch of times, though.

    • monsterzero Says:

      This may have changed, but in California we have been told not to wear masks with an exhaust port (N95 etc) in public because they actually increase the probability of infecting others if you are infectious. Those masks are for healthcare workers only.

      We’re using masks that my sweetie’s awesome co-worker made; they have the wire nose thing so my glasses don’t fog (in theory, doesn’t work so well in practice) and cloth ear loops, and we got to pick our own patterns. For the 4th I wore my red and white shirt and my mask was dark blue with a pattern of small white frogs instead of stars.

  2. Steph Says:

    I’ve been making my masks, except that I bought an overpriced pack of disposable ones just before I moved, because I knew I’d be using too many to keep up with washing them.

    My favorite patterns are
    – a shaped/reversible one by Anjurisa on YouTube, with elastic ear loops
    – the Aplat “origami” mask, with one continuous tie. It has simple folds that give it shaping, but no complicated curves or pleats.
    They’re both simple to cut out and comfortable to wear. If I need to wear it for longer than 20-30 minutes, I usually choose the Aplat one, but the elastic ear loops are nice for quick errands.

    I’ve been working off of a study I saw in March that said 2 layers of woven cotton or t-shirt cotton material was the best balance between blocking particles and breathability, so I haven’t felt like I needed to go beyond two-ply cotton. I should probably check if there are new studies, though; have you seen any good ones on increasing layers?

  3. Sand Says:

    I really like the ones from Vida. 2 layers plus a filter, and a nose wire so my sunglasses don’t fog up. But most importantly, it’s the only mask I have that I can have a conversation in without feeling the need to adjust it.

  4. gwinne Says:

    My favorite mask was made by a friend; I prefer ribbons that tie as opposed to elastics. This has a nose piece and fits great. I wish my friend could make more…but she’s got too much on her plate right now!

    I bought a bunch of those Old Navy masks, which are PERFECT for Tiny Boy but are huge on both me and LG, so I’ll need to explore how to resize them.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Washing them on hot worked pretty well for us. They did come awfully large and shrunk quite a bit. (But I still have the glasses fogging/covering bottom of eyes problem, so maybe they didn’t shrink enough…)

      • gwinne Says:

        I’ll give that a try! I suspect if I added ties to it it would pull it more snug than the earloops…

  5. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I’ve sewed a bunch; so far I like the pattern from Sartor best because it sticks out a bit and I can lecture in it easily. Looks silly but….

    I am not sanguine that ANY cloth masks are all that protective of the wearer, not least because nobody wears them tight enough and also once they get damp the electrostatic filtering is ineffective. There have been studies of N95 type masks showing that the fit effectiveness goes down after 5 on/off cycles max. So yeah, our government sucks a lot.

    I made some custom-fitted ones for the kids, because they have to wear them to school. The 5 year old needed a lot of fitting for her tiny face!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      https://www.sartor.cz/content/66-make-your-own-face-mask
      I think that’s my preferred style, including the bendable nose wire. (Though with cloth ear bands rather than elastic)

      I don’t think it looks silly! And I got a lot of compliments on it at the dentist’s office…

    • Steph Says:

      They really aren’t protective of the wearer. They’re most effective as “source control”, i.e., preventing infected folks from spreading the virus to other people. Which is why the anti-maskers are so frustrating – their “personal choice” does far more to harm other people than it does to harm them.

      https://twitter.com/AkivaMCohen/status/1283756648092360704?s=20 (thread with sources)

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        Right, absolutely, so, does it really matter if they have three layers and a filter? Probably not! Just wear *something* over nose and mouth because it’s all source control and ALSO the cloth ones aren’t fitted enough, or correctly.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think it does matter if it’s so uncomfortable you unconsciously put it below your nose though. (I was self-righteous from my armchair about the people wearing them below their noses until I wore an accordion style for longer than a couple of minutes. After which I made another order to my favorite etsy shop for more bendy nose masks.) And big holes on the sides are probably not as good as fitting the face. Nothing is perfect, but some of these things still matter for protecting other people. Something is better than nothing!

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        something is better than nothing! At this point I’d be happy if the walmart shoppers would just tie on a damn bandana. And not under the nose either.

  6. Alice Says:

    I’ve mostly been wearing some basic solid-color shaped t-shirt cotton ones from an Etsy seller called DoubleJoyDesigns. They’re 2-layer with a filter pocket, and I bought filters from Amazon. The ear straps are cotton, which I find much more comfortable for longer-term wear than elastic. They don’t have a nose wire, but I’ve been perching my glasses atop the mask, and that seems to hold it down well enough to minimize fogging most of the time. I have one patterned one, from a different Etsy seller, that has elastic ear loops and a nose wire. Also 2-layer cotton with a filter pocket, filter inserted. The nose wire material that particular seller used has a tendency to either not really crimp right or to over-crimp. The elastic on that mask also bugs my ears… but my husband is a 3D printer lover, and I asked him to make some ear savers. When I loop the elastic over the ear savers instead of my ears, it’s fine.

    I should also note that we have some very early-Pandemic ones that my mother in law made. She’s a quilter and has a ton of fabric leftover from when my husband and his siblings were kids. She made single-layer ones with hairband ear-loops. The fabric patterns were really, really juvenile–I think fabric that she originally bought for kid quilts when her own kids were four. She meant well, but they were pretty awful-looking for adults, uncomfortable, and not at all protective. We tried them on, took a picture to send to her, and haven’t worn them since.

    I would like to have more masks so that I can cycle through them and do mask-only loads periodically–we keep an eye on our water usage and aren’t really ok with doing mask-only for only 1 or 2 masks. I’ve been eyeballing fancier patterns at places like Society6, but Society6 is only doing accordion style, which I haven’t tried yet. Plus they’re more expensive. I’ve also been looking at shaped patterned masks at…I keep forgetting the name of the site– it’s an Indian company that mainly does clothing and they allow you to customize the measurements, hemline, neckline, etc. I’ve never bought from them (hence my forgetfulness about the name), but they have some cute masks, too. For them, I’ve mainly been hesitating because I’m questioning the ethics of ordering from India when I don’t know the working conditions of the workers or the virus measures the company is taking.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Why do mask only loads? Whenever we go out, I figure everything we wore, not just the mask, is contaminated. (We tend to strip and shower as soon as we get home. I don’t know if this will change when school starts.)

      • Katherine Says:

        I also don’t understand treating masks separately or sanitizing them, or why people make a big deal about not touching the outside of the mask except at the ties/loops. As NicoleandMaggie says, wouldn’t clothing and exposed skin have all the same stuff that the outside of a mask would have on it? We make sure to wash hands thoroughly (after removing mask) anytime we come in from outside and are not treating masks any differently from the rest of our laundry.

        I definitely understand why health-care workers and others in especially high-risk environments need to be careful when they’re removing and disposing of used PPE, but are there reasons those of us who are wearing cloth masks for source control and not using full PPE should do the same?

      • Alice Says:

        Some recommendations say to do them separately, and if the family collectively had enough masks to make up a legitimate small load, I’d be fine with doing that. I do think that some of the stricter recommendations reflect people wearing them in different circumstances than we do, but if it’s possible to do them as mask-only, I feel I might as well.

        I also think for me, it would work better to have more just in general. We don’t have a lot of masks per person– enough to get by, but we have to wash them right after using them so they’re ready for the next need. I tend to be happier when I have a deeper set of backups. Plus I find putting in the filters to be a little fiddly. I think I’d rather deal with doing them all at once, at longer intervals. Some things, I’m happier treating as a batch process, and I think mask filter insertion is likely one of those things.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think the old navy ones make good back-ups– they’re definitely not my favorite in terms of eye-covering, but they’re triple ply and only $2.50/each. My aim was to have at least 5 per person, preferably 7, for our laundry use, though it turns out I can share size-wise with either DH or DC1 so I don’t think we have a full 14 nice ones in medium or large, although we have a ton of less-nice ones as backup. (Currently DC1 has 2 nice ones (from the etsy person I like), 1 ok one (Harry Potter themed), and 4 personal old navies, with access to a billionty other old navies). DH and I are just sharing since we kiss from time to time anyway, and he skips the ones that are too small for him.

        Our county is a red zone, so we’re pretty much only going outside for doctors appointments and occasional errands (curbside groceries, curbside libraries, etc.) and protests. I had thought 3 of us would need them for school, but right now I think I should probably only go in the 2 days/week I’m teaching. So we probably will need fewer than I’d expected, though that may change if we decide to enroll the kids in in-person school (see Wednesday’s anxious parent post).

        Only 3 of our masks (one school colors print and two VOTE) have filter pockets.

        I’d show you a picture of our respective piles, but then you could tell where I teach!

  7. Katherine Says:

    I made a batch of simple pleated masks with ties, blogged here: http://willknitformath.blogspot.com/2020/07/masks.html

    We have a couple of pleated ones with elastic ear loops and a pipe-cleaner nosewire, but I don’t like them as much. I don’t get as good a fit, even with the nose wires – I think they’re too big for me. With the ties, I can get a pretty good seal across the bridge of my nose and cheekbones and I don’t get as much glasses fogging. However, I am glad that we have a few with elastic loops for those occasions when I want to be able to get my mask on and off quickly.

    My toddler has three masks in three different styles, sewn by three different people and given to him. His favorite is a dinosaur-print one his great-grandmother made him. Despite being just barely two, he is a surprisingly compliant mask-wearer.

    For my next batch, I might try the Aplat origami pattern that Steph recommended. It looks less fiddly than the pleating I’ve been doing, and is similar to our toddler’s second-favorite mask.

  8. becca Says:

    I use a Buff stretchy thing pulled up over my mouth and nose when I go out running; I pull it up only when I’m passing people kind of close on the trail.
    I use the redbubble masks when I’m going into work before I grab a surgical disposable one; I’d also keep them around for dashing into a gas station type of uses.
    I got several types from eshakti; I like the most expensive one (satin cup style with nose wire) the best. Most of these also have a filter pocket, which I learned you can just use kleenex tissue in. The electrostatic repulsion filters are probably more effective, but you have to recharge them if you wash them, but I haven’t been motivated to get those.

    I have super basic ones from Target for the kiddos; they do not really do the job but the kiddos like to wear them. My big kid also has his own Buff. I’m curious if anyone has tried ones for little kids that are recommended!

    Re: the shortage of N-95s. Last I checked, you can get the valved one on the web. I would wear a valved one (to protect me) with a cloth mask over it (as source control) if I had to take an airplane or public transit. You can also disinfect them in your instapot!

  9. Susan Says:

    I’ve been sewing my own. Tried a few different patterns but have settled on the Olson (it’s a free download, and pretty easy to sew which important because my skills are not that great). I also watched a video about how to modify the pattern (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3HM2jVLJdg) to fit different faces and I finally got a good fit. I run a drawstring (like from sweatpants) or t-shirt yarn through the casing on the sides in an upside down U shape and have a cord pull (the little plastic thing you find on drawstring bags) on the bottom. That way it can hang on my neck like reading glasses and I just pull up the U to the top of my head and tighten the drawcord with the plastic pull. I found if I used ear loops (either elastic or ribbon) my mask would slip down when I talk, and apparently, I talk a lot!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That video also has a lot of good links in the description to information about masks more generally.

    • Debbie M Says:

      I started with a bandana, worn like a bandit, but with a hair elastic at the bottom for more tightness.

      Then I switched to folding it with some hair elastics for ear straps as described here: https://fox59.com/news/how-to-make-a-homemade-face-mask-with-or-without-sewing/

      Then I made my own using this pattern: https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/. It’s a lot like Susan’s, but I lucked out and the big-kid size fit me perfectly (I have a tiny head). I have one with hair elastics for ear straps which is good for getting on quickly; I use it for shopping. And I have one with a ribbon tie which is good for comfort; I wear it to work. I did add the nose wires (two bread ties twisted together)–this really helps with the fogging glasses, usually. Worst-case, inhaling usually de-fogs my glasses.

      I left an opening to insert a filter, but still have no clues on what to use for that. All I ever hear is something unwoven, which makes me think “dryer sheet.” That can’t be right. Or “coffee filter.” Or my mom pulled something out of an air conditioner filter rated for tiny particles and cut that up. I don’t know.

      I really love how the ribbon one fits me perfectly with a nice seal and it’s not falling off ever, unlike the masks of so many of my co-workers. A bunch of them are wearing pretty flat ones that work about as well as a piece of cardboard–of course they are wearing them stupidly.

  10. Cloud Says:

    I use a neck gaiter style (which I’ve just learned is also called a buff?) for when I’m exercising and generally when I’m outdoors. My family all like the bamboo one from the Etsy shop Transient Craft. It is soft and comfortable, doesn’t make my neck hot, doesn’t fog up my sunglasses, and I find that style easier to breath in when I’m exercising – I think because it redistributes the exhale down instead of just back in at my mouth. But it is only one layer (I can fold it over to double up if I need to be in proximity to someone for more than a few seconds). It is also not cheap, but since it is so much better for exercise and outdoor activities than any other mask we’ve tried, I have bought a bunch.

    When I go into stores I wear a 2 or 3 layer cotton mask. I have some 2 layer masks with a filter pocket that I bought on Amazon very early on and they fit great… but are no longer available so I can’t buy more. I have a couple homemade ones from my mom that are 3 layer and work well, too. I need to get some more and haven’t decided which to get yet.

    My 13 year old almost exclusively wears the neck gaiter style – either the bamboo one or one I bought from another Etsy shop with a galaxy print she likes.

    My 10 year old wears a mix of neck gaiter (from different Etsy shops – the bamboo ones are too big and insufficiently cute for her) and homemade ones from my mom. When she wears a style with an ear loop, she wears a stretchy headband that I sewed two big buttons on, and loops the mask onto the buttons. Her ears are too bendy to hold elastic.

    I sometimes shove a kleenex in the filter pocket of my mask, but we don’t generally do anything that involves prolonged contact with other people indoors. We are very fortunate to both be working from home and we so our indoor exposure is mostly in stores. We try go at times that aren’t busy and we stay behind the plexiglass shield when at the checkout. Otherwise, it is just picking up takeout, which can usually be done quite quickly and with good distancing during any wait for the food to be ready.

    If schools had opened here and we had decided to let our younger daughter go back in person, I was going to do some research on what mask would best protect her. But first my district and then my governor announced our schools would be online only so we’ll just keep going as we are now.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’d always heard balaclava! I have a mathy one that I’ll be using in conjunction with my not so great but adorable red bubble masks, assuming my classroom isn’t swelteringly hot. I may ask the building manager if he can disable the emergency alarm from the emergency door in order to get outside airflow in while I’m teaching. (He probably won’t go for it though since it will be fighting the building’s a/c.)

  11. Omdg Says:

    At the hospital my favorite surgical masks (called “The UltiMask” really!) have a bendy part that fits to your nose AND some foam on the nose bridge on the inside to help with mask fogging. I have also found over time that I just breathe differently while wearing a mask — always through my mouth with a downward air trajectory. I don’t even think about doing it anymore. For home cloth masks I bought some from KimKaps which also makes surgical scrub caps, and some for my daughter from HannaAndersson. I like the ones that tie behind my head. They do annoyingly dig up the glasses, which seems entirely dependent on how high on my head the top strap is. Wrapped around my ponytail seems to produce the least amount of fog, but is annoying to take on and off. If you’re able to find homemade masks with a bendy nosepiece those seem to me to be the least likely to fog.

  12. bogart Says:

    We are quite hunkered down/distanced and do very little mask wearing for that reason. We bought an assortment and while there are several I like better I’m honestly not sure even where I bought them.

    I did order 10 KN95s off ebay and — eh. I don’t think I get a tight enough fit that they really work; there’s a (small, to be fair) gap below my eyes, the wire nosepiece notwithstanding.

    I did recently order a mask (off ebay) with a clear vinyl (?) window after reading an article about such things in the WaPo and again, at least for the one I got — eh. It is OK and probably not a worse fit than many of our cheaper cloth masks, but the vinyl is rigid enough that it doesn’t really shape over my nose right (and there is no wire, which I thought there was, so am unhappy about that).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      What style are the ones you like better?

      • bogart Says:

        Basically, cup with wire over nose. But there’s also a fit element (does it fit MY face right) that I find hard to articulate but … I know it when I have it. I’ve also got 1 gaiter that I find somewhat useful.

  13. FF Says:

    I’ve bought 3 different types of masks so far. I first got some of these https://www.amazon.com/Fashion-Protection-Anti-dust-Windproof-filtration/dp/B086JRFV6X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8from in late March. But even though they’re cotton and theoretically cool (and have the nose wire), especially since summer started, within a minute of putting one on, I turn into a hot sweaty, suffocating mess–not sure if it’s hot flashes or rosacea that they trigger. This problem came to a head a couple of weeks ago when I went a medical appointment–when I got to the clinic, the elevator was broken and I needed to go to the fourth floor. So I walked up the stairs in my mask (I do walk up stairs every day at home, but not with a mask) and by the time I got there, I was gasping and couldn’t even speak to the person at the desk where you check in. They had to get a nurse, who brought me to a room where I could sit and take off the mask, and they gave me some water to drink. I was worried that it was my asthma, even though it’s normally very well controlled, but after a few minutes without the mask, I was breathing normally again and able to put the mask back on and have the appointment. (I’ve also been noticing that whenever I go to medical appointments, they don’t seem to have the air-conditioning running. This has been true at multiple appointments at 4 different locations. And I’m normally always cold).

    After that, I did some research which suggested that the gaiter style was less likely to feel suffocating. So I ordered 2 different gaiter-style face masks that I looked like they would be moisture-wicking and breathable: https://cherrystonestyle.com/collections/products/products/quick-dry-cooling-unisex-neck-gaiter-face-mask-with-ear-loops-proud-purple; and a different (now sold out) pattern of https://www.etsy.com/listing/788609482/rainbow-floral-line-art-neck-gaiter?ref=shop_home_active_17&frs=1. Both of these are good but not great based on 1-2 wearings. The fabric in the first mask is the least suffocating, but when I put up the ear loops and cover my nose, it comes up a bit too high under my eyes and it also presses on my nose a bit. The second mask has stretchier fabric and no ear loops–it fits more comfortably, but the fabric is a bit hotter, although still more comfortable than my original masks. Maybe I should try the Transient Craft bamboo mask mentioned by Cloud next. I still wear my original face masks for brief errands .

    If anyone else has bought masks that are especially comfortable/breathable, I’d be interested to know about them.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Sounds like the lack of a/c is a huge problem. At the last protest I went to, I was a hot mess by the end of the march, but I think it’s lack of regular exercise outside of my a/c home more than anything else. I don’t even have to walk from my car to the office anymore so I’ve lost all my tolerance.

      Maybe try a bandana? (Like from the wild west) It’s like a gaiter but there’s more room to direct your breath down. (I didn’t mention it in the post, but we have several of these as well and used them in March before I started stockpiling actual masks.) I got several from urban outfitters to supplement the couple we randomly owned. https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/mens-scarves-bandanas

  14. Lisa Says:

    I’ve got a bunch of medical procedure type masks for the lab/office and have been making the accordion fold type masks in various sizes (originally from a pattern but more recently just haphazardly, with unsurprisingly mixed results). I like the homemade kind better because they don’t slip off my nose when I talk and I can make them double or triple layer as desired. I like them pretty deep so that they go all the way around my chin, that seems to help them stay on well. My kids like them because they can also have matching masks for their stuffed animal friends (when I randomly make a mask too small for the 5-year, old we get a bonus “friend” mask). Early on, I made a few with the ties that go around the head, but we really prefer them with elastic around the ears. I can see how the tie-type would be better if we had to wear them all day long. But I only need mine when I’m in public spaces in my building – when it’s just me in my office, I don’t wear one. And the kids will not be going back to school this fall (looking forward to your anxious parent post tomorrow – that was going to be my “ask the grumpies” question!), so they won’t need them all day for a while.

  15. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Email from Indivisible (excerpted):

    Luckily, the Heroes Act addresses many of these key aspects of democracy reform that will help protect the vote ahead of the election. The Heroes Act includes critical protections and funding for the upcoming election in November to help expand access, secure ballots, and put in place key vote by mail infrastructure. The bill:

    Includes an additional $3.6 billion in election funding to expand vote by mail and maintain safe in-person voting locations — for a total of $4 billion, the amount recommended by the Brennan Center to properly fund the election during COVID-19.
    Allows any eligible voters in any state to request a mail-in ballot for any reason, and allows them to request them online.
    Adds $25 billion in funding for the United States Postal Service.
    Offers important measures like same-day and online voter registration, extended early voting days, etc. To read more about the Heroes Act and election protection, click here.

    Without these key protections in place, voter suppression will continue to impact Black and brown people. That’s why we have two asks for you:

    Start by calling your Senators and demand they pass the Heroes Act immediately. And keep calling back! We need to make sure that they hear us loud and clear: stop the COVID-19 crisis from spinning into an even deeper economic crisis that further fails Black people, other communities of color, and all people in America, by improving and passing the HEROES Act.
    Save the date! Make calls this Thursday, July 23, for a national Vote by Mail Call-In day. We’ll be driving calls on Thursday to demand that Senators protect our elections by passing the Heroes Act with the additional $3.6 billion in election funding.


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