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The Best Cloth Face Masks for Protection, According to the CDC

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people should wear masks in public settings, but not all coverings are equally effective.

According to CDC guidelines, people should opt for a mask made with two or more layers of fabric. An ideal face mask should also fit snugly over the nose and mouth with no gaps. In a handful of recent studies, the American Chemical Society has also confirmed that multiple fabric layers are more effective in blocking small particles. 

One study published in the organization’s peer-reviewed journal, the ACS Nano, revealed that cotton combined with additional layers of fabric was more effective than layered masks made of a singular material. The aerosol filtration efficiency study also found that high thread-count fabrics performed better than moderate-to-low-thread count options. To check the thread-count of a face mask, shoppers should hold up their face covering to a light source. (If you can easily see the outline of each individual fiber, the face mask is not an effective filter.)

Another study published in the ACS Nano revealed that tightly woven cotton outperformed most synthetic fabrics when undergoing filtration experiments. However among synthetics, 100% polyester did well, while the majority of synthetic fabrics did not filter well.

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Shoppers should avoid gaiters and face masks with valves. Scientists at Duke University published a study this summer evaluating the effectiveness of more than a dozen different facial coverings spanning from N95 respirators to bandanas. The study revealed that neck gaiters, face masks with valves and bandanas easily let droplets pass through the fabric. For example, face masks with valves may allow you to breathe easier, but the openings allow particles to easily circulate to others and you through the air. According to the CDC guidelines, this can help exhaled respiratory droplets reach others and potentially spread coronavirus. Bandanas and gaiters have a low thread-count which also allows germs to easily pass through.

While N95 masks are considered among the most effective options, the CDC recommends that people reserve medical respirators for frontline workers. KN95 and disposable face masks are also another effective alternatives you can buy that filters airborne particles.

Another precautionary measure shoppers can take to make a layered face mask is investing in face mask filters. Some face masks online come with an insert so shoppers can slip a filter in, others sometimes come with bonus filters, too.

Considering all this, we rounded up some of the best cloth face masks that will help keep you and others safe. Shop them all ahead.

Three Layer Cotton Face Mask with Filter Insert

This multi-fabric, multi-layer face mask is made from cotton and muslin fabric. The handmade face mask comes in a variety of styles and includes a pocket insert for an optional filter. Some styles include a nose wire, which the CDC recommends to use, especially if you wear eyeglasses to eliminate fog and ensure a secure fit.

fabric face masks, layered face masks, etsy face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Etsy

Five Layer Face Mask with Filter

This four-pack of face masks from Etsy.com  features four layers of soft cotton and a pocket for a filter, giving shoppers five layers of protection from particles. The reusable face mask comes with a disposable PM2.5 filter, an adjustable nose wire and ear loops. For the best results, this one should be washed by hand.

mutli layered face mask, face mask with filter, etsy face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Etsy

Respokare Niosh N95 Respirator Mask

While N95 masks aren’t recommended by the CDC for the public to use, Rolling Stone reported that N95 Mask Co. is making enough masks for both the medical and non-medical fields. The Respokare Niosh N95 Respirator Mask can block up to 95% of small particles thanks to its four-layer fabric filtration system that includes its signature antiviral layer that “destroys particles within minutes,” according to the face mask brand.

n95 mask, face mask, filtered face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Respokare

Snoozies Three-Layer Face Mask

This three-layered face mask comes in a variety of patterns, including trendy leopard print. The face mask also comes with four disposable features that feature five additional layers each. According to Amazon reviews, these face masks run on the smaller side, so shoppers should make note when considering this covering from Amazon.

leopard face mask, cotton face mask, layered face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Banana Republic Polyester Face Mask

Although high thread-count cotton is among the best materials when it comes to face masks, polyester fabric also filter out particles well. Offered in a pack of three for $30, these face masks from Banana Republic feature a lining made out of 100% polyester. The shell also features a blend of multilayer fabric that includes 50% nylon, 35% polyester and 15% spandex.

banana republic face masks, multi layered face masks, face mask coverings
CREDIT: Courtesy of Banana Republic

Multi-Layer Cotton Fashion Face Mask

Look fashionable with these three-layer cotton face mask that features a pocket for a filter. The $10 floral mask comes with four carbon-activated filters as well.

face mask with filter, multi layered face mask, fashion face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Five Layer KN95 Mask

Another option for shoppers to consider is a five-ply KN95 mask. The mask is equipped with five layers for maximum filtration and an adjustable nose wire for a secure fit. The non-woven polypropylene fabric mask is soft, lightweight and breathable. 

kn95 mask, layered face mask, disposable face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Three Layer Disposable Face Mask

Shoppers who like using disposable face masks can also purchase the coverings in multiple colorways. The masks are made with three layers of protective filtration that includes a lightweight fabric on the outside, melt-brown fabric in the middle and non-woven fabric on the inside for comfort.

three layer face mask, disposable face mask, colored face masks
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Reusable Multilayer Fabric Face Mask with Air Mesh 

Available in a pack of three, these four-layered face masks are another option to consider when looking for a multi-fabric face mask. The soft and reusable face mask also has an adjustable nose wire for maximum comfort.

multi layer face mask, fabric face masks, amazon face masks
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Old Navy Triple Fabric Face Mask

Old Navy offers triple fabric face masks made from cotton poplin in a pack of five for $12.50. Available in a variety of colorways, these soft face masks are soft and breathable thanks to their 100% cotton construction.

old navy face mask, fabric layer face mask, face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Old Navy

Four Layer Cotton Jersey Face Mask

This four-layer soft cotton face mask comes in a pack of three on Amazon.com. Available in multiple colors, shoppers can choose the face mask that best fits their style. This face mask also has room for a filter, giving shoppers up to five layers of protection.

cotton jersey face mask, layered face mask, amazon face mask
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon
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