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Varieties of Face Coverings. Part 1 of a Series

A mask is a mask is a mask, right?


It seems like we have endless combinations of masks and face coverings.

N95 masks. Don’t buy them, they still need to be reserved for medical workers.

Besides the protective N95 masks, there are many other options for face coverings. Most responsible sources of information recommend wearing a face mask in public, and it seems to be part of the successful efforts in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Iceland, and New Zealand in eliminating of reducing the spread of the covid 19.

Face coverings are either recommended or required in most of the United States except for some of the very rural states or in a few states apparently run by idiots. The most thorough study of mandatory face coverings  indicates that face masks are an important aspect of preventing the spread of the virus.

Here are some of the fabrics  found in reusable masks being offered: conventional cotton, organic cotton, poplin, 100% polyester, cotton poly blends (tri-blend and CVC,) and Nylon Cotton blend.

Then the masks might have one, two or three ply. Generally more layers is better, though I saw in one study that tripling up a bandana was not much better than a single layer. Consensus does seem to be that at least two layers is a good thing.

Masks then have different ways that they stay on your head. Gaiters stretch around your whole head. There are straps of varying elasticity and they can go around your ears or around your whole head. Those straps can then be adjustable on some masks. Some simple masks just have holes to go over your ears.

Some mask lie flat, some have a sort of a cone shape, some have pleats and some have some sort of sewing to fit better around the nose. This affects how you decorate them, more on that in our next mask post.

Some face coverings to varying degrees claim antimicrobial properties, some do not.

Some of have a metal or plastic insert that can be molded to the top of your nose to fit more tightly and some do not.

There are not a lot of certifications guiding the purchase of face coverings, so currently it is buyer beware.

Here is a video that shows an AllMade mask that is multi-ply and then a single ply which does not seem to stop a spray (or sneeze…)

My company as been making sublimated masks for which tells the story of face coverings pretty succinctly:

This pretty much says it all, the mask is to stop the virus from spreading, not as much to protect the wearer from receiving the virus. A second aspect of this mask illustrates a common theme in face coverings, a portion of every purchase is donated to a charity. Donations are often collected either cash going to activists or charities, or some companies make a donation of masks to a medical facility based on the masks that they sell.

A good guess is that we will be hearing about the following as the market matures:

  • more about comfort and adjustability
  • more science on filters that can be put into masks
  • more details on washability
  • more detail on fabric, breathability, filtration, etc.
  • more fashion options
  • lower prices
  • more brands getting involved
  • some sorts of certification on washability and filtration
  • a variety of colors
  • more ways the masks can be decorated and masks that are more easily decorated


A Hanes three ply 100% cotton mask with ear loops that is washable. It also has FDA emergency approval.
LAT Apparel offers an affordable two ply mask and they also include an inexpensive single color pad print.
A Bella + Canvas mask that is a blended fabric, single ply, ear holes rather than straps, and disposable vs. washable.
We are bound to see more creative approaches to face coverings, like this face mask with straw hole.

You can sew your own, and there is some good evidence that a quilted mask can even work better than the N95 masks that are touted as the gold standard of masks.

Los Angeles Apparel jumped in early in the pandemic to help out with protection for health workers. They then branched out and are also doing some of the more fashionable masks out there.

The next portion of this three part series will be focused on the decoration of face coverings.


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