How to choose the right face mask for you

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises the public to wear face masks or covers in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain in order to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

There are many options available to the general public including N95 or KN95 masks, cloth masks and surgical or disposable masks. But which are most effective when it comes to COVID-19? Our guide can help you purchase, use or create your own masks while keeping you up to date on the latest updates from your state or county.

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Guide to choosing a face mask


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Dr. William Li, a bestselling author and president and co-founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation provided Finder with tips on selecting a face mask:

  • Get a mask made of at least 2 layers of fabric to prevent respiratory droplets from being passed through from either side.
  • Choose a mask that has a good fit for your face, covering your nose and mouth with as little air leak around the sides as possible. If there’s a bendable metal strip for the bridge of the nose, that can help create a better seal.
  • Make sure the mask can easily stay attached. Ear loops or ties are convenient features.

“Find a mask that is comfortable,” Li says. “You need to be able to breathe reasonably comfortably while wearing it.”
“Surgical masks are now easier to find and a good option,” Li adds. “They have been effective in keeping infection rates low in hospitals.”

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How to fit your mask properly

When putting on a mask, a tight seal should be created against your nose and mouth. Use the instructions provided with your mask for correct fit. You should test that a seal has been created by exhaling heavily. Air should not escape through any cracks. If a seal hasn’t been created, re-fit and test again.

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How to remove your mask properly

First, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before putting on your mask. When you’re ready to take it off, do not touch the front of the mask — it could be contaminated. Instead, remove it by pulling the bottom strap over the back of your head, followed by the top strap. Discard the mask, and then wash your hands.

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Which type of mask do I need?

There’s a lot of information out there about when and where to wear a mask and what type of mask you need for various situations. Use this quick guide to help you decide which kind of face mask best fits your needs.

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N95, KN95 respirator masks

Who it’s best for: Healthcare workers

Description: Blocks at least 95% of airborne particles when worn properly. Adheres to government testing regulations.

How long it lasts: Can be reused in certain situations, but must be discarded after coming into contact with bodily fluids, infected patients and in other circumstances. Read the CDC’s full reuse guidelines.

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Surgical face mask

Who it’s best for: People who are sick and caretakers

Description: Protects wearers from infecting others. Usually made of 3 layers of melt-blown fabric.

How long it lasts: Intended to be discarded after every use.

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Cloth face masks

Who it’s best for: The general population when in a public space.

Description: Typically made from cotton fabric with elastic or tie straps. Some designs have a pocket to place a removable filter.

How long it lasts: Can be washed and reused for weeks or even months, as long as the material maintains its integrity.

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DIY face masks

Who it’s best for: The general population when in a public space.

Description: Can be homemade using an old T-shirt, bandana, coffee filter or other readily available materials.

How long it lasts: Depends on the materials used. Most DIY cloth masks can be washed and reused for weeks or even months, as long as the material maintains its integrity.

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How to make your own face mask

If cloth or N95 masks are hard to find or out of stock online, consider sewing your own. Guides like this one from the New York Times outline the steps that can have you wearing a cloth mask in an hour or two. If you have a small swatch of fabric about the size of a napkin, shoelaces, scissors, and a needle and thread, you can make a mask without additional supplies.

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Video guide for making your own mask

Finder also has its own walkthrough video on how to make a mask while following CDC guidelines. It requires a bandana or square fabric, coffee filter, hair ties and scissors. No sewing is required.

Watch the video here

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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