Though fabric masks provide only minimal protection towards the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, the Centers for Disease Management and Prevention (CDC) now advocate that everybody use them when leaving the house. The hope is that this low-risk, comparatively simple intervention could make a dent in the spread of COVID-19 by folks with no symptoms or extremely mild ones.

However masks aren’t exactly simple to come by: Medical-grade ones are already in short provide for healthcare workers who need them, so healthy people shouldn’t even attempt to purchase them. And in the wake of the CDC’s new suggestions, even non-medical cloth masks are sold out or backordered in lots of on-line stores. In the event you’re trying to figure out if and the way you must cover your face in your subsequent essential journey out of the house—for a walk on an uncrowded street or to purchase necessary groceries, for instance—right here’s a guide to all your options.

Things to look for and avoid when shopping for a material mask

Plenty of crafters and makers, as well as corporations that normally sell different fabric products, are now offering non-medical masks for sale. But not all of those masks are created equal. In the event you’re ordering protective equipment on-line, right here’s what to look for:

Do not buy medical-grade, filtering masks unless you’re immunocompromised or are caring for somebody sick with COVID-19. Hospitals are experiencing extreme shortages of those masks, and they aren’t shown to provide significant protection for healthy individuals.

Your masks ought to cover your nose and mouth and may have fastenings that maintain it firmly in place while you discuss, move, and breathe. If you must touch your face to adjust your masks, you risk exposing your nostril or mouth to germs.

Ideally, the mask ought to have some type of adjustable band to reduce gaps between your nostril and your cheeks.

The simplest fabrics are water resistant and tightly-woven—not stretchy or sheer. A tightly-woven cotton is the next greatest thing, and your mask should have at the least two layers of it.

Your masks needs to be easy to sanitize by boiling or throwing in the washing machine. That means it shouldn’t have cloth glues, delicate supplies, or funky decorations (aside from prints on the material). Elaborations like sequins (yes, there are people selling sequined masks proper now) provide surfaces that viral particles can linger on for days.

For those who purchase a fashionable cover to go over your mask—some stores are selling glittery cloth covers and chainmail overlays, for example—remember that this outer layer is being uncovered to viral particles. You should remove it and sanitize it just like you would with the mask itself.

What about a balaclava or scarf?

Rachel Noble, a public health microbiologist at UNC at Chapel Hill, tells PopSci that balaclavas and other warm-weather gear designed to cover your nose and mouth are unlikely to be suitable for stopping the spread of COVID-19. Because they’re designed to be as easy to breath by as doable, they tend to be made of loose fabrics.

“You want to select a really, really tightly woven fabric,” Noble says. “We’re speaking about something that’s approximately the density of the weave of a bandana, or a really high-high quality bedsheet.”

Jersey materials, towels, and any textiles that stretch whenever you pull them are possible too loose, she says, as are most sweaters and other knit yarns. So when you really can’t sew or put collectively a masks with hair ties as described under, covering your nose and mouth with a bandana tied round your face is probably slightly more effective and easier to sanitize than a balaclava or wound-up scarf. But all of those workarounds are principally only helpful in that they remind you to not touch your face and shield bystanders from the worst of your coughing and sneezing. When you’re coughing and sneezing, you should really be staying inside.

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