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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.

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 also allow particles to easily circulate to others 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 other effective alternatives you can buy that filter 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 you can slip a filter in.

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.

Tiny Element Three Layer Face Mask with Filter Insert

This multi-fabric, three-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

The Headgear Shop Five Layer Face Mask with Filter

These masks feature 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.

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 featuring a flexible nose bridge 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.

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 also filters out particles well. Offered in a pack of three, these Banana Republic face masks 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.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Banana Republic

That Healthy Skin Glow Face Mask

Look fashionable with this three-ply cotton face mask featuring a filter pocket, nose bridge, and adjustable ear loops. The floral mask comes in different colorway options and with four carbon-activated filters as well.

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

Healthify 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 clip for a secure fit. The non-woven polypropylene fabric mask is soft, lightweight, and breathable. 

CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Bingfone Three-Layer Disposable Face Mask

Shoppers who like using disposable face masks can purchase them in value packs that include multiple colors. These masks come in a pack of 50 and are made with three layers of protective filtration, soft elastic ear loops, and a bendable nose bridge.

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

Badger Smith Multi-Layer Face Masks

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, breathable air mesh 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 three-ply fabric face masks made from soft, breathable cotton poplin in a pack of five for under $15. These pleated cloth face masks with soft elastic ear straps come in assorted colors, prints, and patterns.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Old Navy

PCHF Four Layer Cotton Jersey Face Mask

This pleated four-layer soft cotton jersey face mask comes in a pack of three, multiple color options, and 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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