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Face Mask FAQ

Author: Outdoor Research

May 08, 2020

For going out in public, a face mask is essential right now. But what kind should you be wearing? How do face masks actually work? And how should you wear it? Here’s what you need to know about wearing and caring for a cloth face mask.

How do face masks work?

Covering your face with a cloth mask is a key component to keeping COVID-19 from spreading, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A mask prevents the person wearing it from spreading respiratory droplets when they talk, sneeze or cough. This is crucial because people can spread the virus even if they don’t know they have it, before symptoms start—even if they never have symptoms at all.

“If everyone wears a cloth face covering when out in public, such as going to the grocery store, the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 [the COVID-19 virus] can be reduced for the community,” according to the CDC. Wearing a cloth face mask protects others around you, while the face coverings they wear help protect you from getting the virus.

A person wears a face mask while walking with a skateboard down a city street.

When to use face masks

Any time you go out in public in a setting where social distancing measures may be difficult—like the grocery store or a pharmacy—CDC recommends wearing a protective face mask.

Are cloth masks different from other masks?

Yes. Reusable cloth masks are not the same as the medical-grade masks (like N95 respirators) that professional healthcare workers wear. Specialized medical masks, surgical masks and respirators are in short supply, and should be reserved for professional healthcare workers and first responders, according to CDC. But cloth masks worn by the rest of us play an important role in helping prevent the spread of the virus.

How to wear a face mask

A good fit is important for maximum protection from a face mask. According to CDC, here’s how to make sure a mask is right for you:

A face mask should fit snugly against the sides of your face and over your nose and mouth, secured with ties or ear loops. It should be comfortable, and you should be able to breathe freely.

Product photo of an Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask.

What to look for in a face mask

Aside from a proper fit, CDC says the best face mask should include multiple layers of fabric, and should also be washable.

Should you wash a face mask?

Yes. Depending on how often you wear it, you should wash a face mask routinely. You can put it in a washing machine or wash it by hand.

What should a face mask be made of?

Cotton masks are easier to make at home by cutting up a tee shirt, or using available material. But for a more durable, long-lasting mask we chose polyester fabric that's longer lasting than jersey cotton in an 10,000+ cycle abrasion test. The polyester fiber also absorbs less moisture than cotton, so it wicks and dries much faster. 

Tips/Best Practices for Wearing A Cloth Face Mask

We’re making face masks! They’re durable, washable and breathable—and can be worn with or without the included removable filters.

Learn more and be notified once available.

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research® is dedicated to inspiring the journey ahead with award-winning technical apparel and accessories. Based in Seattle since 1981, we are committed to improving our customer’s experience through innovative materials, purpose-driven features, and versatile products that are backed by our Infinite Guarantee®. We rely on the real-world testing of our athlete ambassadors, mountain guides, and local adventurers involved in our core sports: alpinism, rock and ice climbing, hiking, backpacking, paddling, trail running, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. We’re here for the fun, adventure, excitement, and For the Journey Ahead™. Get to know us at or follow along on the journey via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.