We’ve consulted with a range of authorities, from fashion designers and textile experts to aerosol scientists and infectious disease specialists, to focus on the small but crucial design details that have a disproportionate impact on how a mask fits and feels, and – by extension – how it helps reduce person-to-person viral transmission. We then commissioned independent lab tests to assess the filtration efficiency and breathability of a variety of sheet masks and filters, including our peaks.

Because the operation of a specific mask for a given individual involves a myriad of factors (the size of a person’s head and facial features, their behaviors, and the environment), we were unable to identify which mask was on. more effective for every person and every situation. However, based on extensive reports, actual fit and comfort testing, and scientific testing of filtration efficiency and breathability, we have a few recommendations. Our choices are adjustable in several ways and, when worn correctly, can filter airborne particles better than most sheet masks, while still being easy enough to breathe. All have pockets for an additional filter layer and can also be worn over a surgical type mask. (For more information on N95 and KN95 respirators and surgical masks, see below. We also have some preliminary recommendations for these.) Since the best cloth face mask for you is the one you will wear without worrying about anything, I have offered a range of options to achieve this.

For advice on the best cloth masks for kids, check out our buying guide only for kid masks. Additionally, we’ve identified a handful of legitimate N95 respirators, KN95 respirators, and surgical-style masks that anyone can buy.

Enro mask

Offering sizes XXS to XL, flexible nose bridge wire and adjustable earrings, this mask should fit well on most faces. In lab tests, the Enro face mask filtered out a greater amount of 0.5 micron particles than any other machine washable mask we have considered.

Hands down, our panel testers loved wearing this lightweight mask more than any other (as did our junior panelists, who tested pint-sized versions for our guide to children’s cloth masks). You can choose from six sizes and further adjust the fit with this mask’s foldable nose bridge wire and the cleverly designed, adjustable earrings (which have incorporated beads to prevent the cord plugs from falling out). In addition, based on the filtration efficiency and breathability tests we ordered, the Enro Face Mask sample we sent filtered out approximately 99% of the particles at 0.5 microns, more than any of our other fabric mask choices. The Enro mask does not have a filter pocket: its filter layer is sewn into the mask, so you don’t have to worry about padding and unzipping an extra layer that may slip off. It is also more breathable than the other masks we recommend. The only catch is that it sits closer to the nose and mouth than our other picks, especially the Zenbu organic cotton face mask by Graf Lantz and The Everyday Mask 2.0 by Proper Cloth.

Graf Lantz Zenbu organic cotton face mask (with filter)

Graf Lantz Zenbu organic cotton face mask (with filter)

This mask covers the nose and mouth, more than most fabric masks, so that the fabric does not interfere with breathing or talking. The addition of its removable filter (sold separately) increases filtration, providing additional protection against incoming and outgoing particles.

Darts on the sides of this two-ply preshrunk cotton-twill mask keep the figure somewhat puffy (so there’s more leeway) and slightly stretchy (so you can open your mouth wide without slipping) . The nasal bridge thread of the Graf Lantz Zenbu organic cotton face mask – like the one on the Kitsbow (with filter) face mask, the strongest we’ve seen – strikes a nice balance between stiff and flexible, making it a great seal. . Used with its filter sold separately, the mask balances breathability with strong filtration, assuming a good fit. However, we want the filter to cover the entire mask to maximize its filtration potential.

Kitsbow face mask (with filter)

Kitsbow face mask (with filter)

Padded with its associated filter, this mask with sturdy elastic bands around the head fits comfortably on our testers and performed well in independent lab tests for filtration and breathability. For maximum protection potential, choose one of the solid color models, which are made of denser fabrics.

The solid-color versions of this two-ply cone mask are made from a substantial cotton canvas, while the throws are made from a lighter performance fabric used in the cycling clothing this company is known for. The elastic headbands of the Kitsbow face mask sit better on the hair than most, and with the foldable nose bridge wire (which is about as sturdy as that of the Graf Lantz mask) and a choice of three mask sizes , they allow a nice cut close to the body. Two filters are included and unlike most mask and filter combinations we’ve seen, Kitsbow filters cover the entire mask area, maximizing their filtration potential. The solid color mask filtered better than the plaid version in independent lab tests, but the plaid mask was more breathable.

Appropriate fabric The everyday mask 2.0

Appropriate fabric The everyday mask 2.0

This stylish mask offers good nose and mouth clearance and, thanks to a sewn-in filter, decent filtration efficiency. You can choose between adjustable headbands and earrings, both of which provide a good fit.

Proper Cloth’s updated everyday mask 2.0 has improved pleating to lift your facial tissue more, as well as a sewn-in filter layer that has performed quite well in lab tests than we ordered for filtration efficiency and breathability (filtering 75% of 0.5 micron particles in tests). The new all-cotton mask in heather gray similarly fits the version of this mask we previously recommended, which had a filter bag. It is stiffer and thicker than the Enro mask incorporated in the filter we recommend, but it moves further away from the face.

Banana Republic Face Mask

Banana Republic Face Mask

The most affordable option on this list, the original Banana Republic masks (sold in a pack of three) also filtered out particles better than others in our lab tests, and heavy-duty earrings and nose wire. facilitate adjustment. The tradeoff, of course, is that these masks are less breathable than our other picks.

The latest iteration of the Banana Republic face mask retains the same swimsuit-like outer layer as the first Banana Republic mask we originally recommended, but the inner layer is now a cotton-like polyester. With cord-to-earring plugs and a filter pocket, it offers room for adjustment, although now it is less stretchy than before, people with a larger face or a nasal bridge higher may do better with one of the more generously cut masks we recommend, such as the Graf Lantz Zenbu or the Rendall Co. Sentry. Banana Republic’s dense mask blocked more droplets than any other mask when we tested all candidates without a filter inserted – and it even did better than all but the Graf Lantz when we tested all candidates. with their filters inside. The trade-off, of course, is that the material is quite dense and less breathable, which can be a deciding factor for some people. The company sells filters separately, but according to our lab tests, adding an insert didn’t improve filtration much.

Understandably, most people would prefer a mask that fits like a proverbial glove, traps all incoming and outgoing viruses, lets you swallow fresh air with abandon, and feels like it’s not even there. Unfortunately, this mask does not exist. Buying a fabric face mask is an exercise in compromise. Overall, the better a mask blocks respiratory droplets, the harder it is to breathe, said Bryan Ormond, assistant professor of textile engineering at the Textile Protection and Comfort Center at North Carolina State University. Conversely, the easier it is to breathe through a mask, the less potentially protective it is. The most important thing a non-medical mask can do is line up tightly with the curves of your face, cover your nose and mouth, and feel comfortable enough that you don’t have to worry about it in the dark. during your day.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the latest research in fabric face coverings, help you create a collection of masks that meet your various needs, tell you how to upgrade the masks you already have with a few inexpensive accessories, and will explain how prioritizing fit and comfort can lead to better protection – for others and for yourself.

The masks we link to in this guide have the design details that the experts told us they look for when they buy themselves, and that we found fit and comfort to be very important. These features include moldable nasal bridge wires; cord stoppers, adjustable headbands or ties; and filter bags. Additionally, we commissioned a university research lab to test all of our top picks, so we’re also confident that they each offer a decent basic level of protection (assuming an airtight seal around the nose. and mouth), balanced to a reasonable degree. breathability.

Expect this guide to continue to evolve. We’ll continue to take notes as we go through supermarket runs, workouts, and (for some of us) daily commutes and eight-hour workdays. We’re going to throw the masks in the wash over and over again, and we’ll be recording the feedback from our long-term readers and testers. And we will continue to seek promising options based on the latest science and the changing needs of people over the seasons. As long as masks remain a staple in everyday life, we’ll be there with updates.


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