Face masks have become a part of the new normal. 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 still required in a number of instances, including public transportation, 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 viruses even if they don’t know they have then, before symptoms start—even if they never have symptoms at all.



A commuter wears the Outdoor Research Face Mask Kit.

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 should a face mask fit?

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.

What is the best face mask for wearing with a beard or facial hair?

The best face mask for wearing with a beard or other facial hair will allow space but still provide a close, protective fit. All of our face masks are designed with nose wires to fit snugly over the bridge of the nose, but our Protective Essential Bandana Kit provides more space from the mouth downward to make room for beards or facial hair while still providing maximum protection.

What is the best face mask for wearing with earrings?

For the best face mask to wear with earrings, we recommend one of our models with adjustable ear loops, which includes all of our Face Mask Kits and the Adrenaline Sports Face Mask Kit. These masks adjust easily to slip the straps over even large earrings and piercings. They’re easy to put on and remove, and also let you show off your piercings. Our other offerings, like the Protective Essential Bandana Kit, keep the earlobes tucked inside the mask.

What is the best face mask for wearing with facial piercings?

A close fit is crucial for a face mask to function properly—but if the fit isn’t exactly right, it can irritate facial piercings. Our Adrenaline Sports Face Mask Kit is specially designed to allow a bit more space around the nose and mouth while still providing a safe, close fit around the edges.

What should I 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. 

How many layers are your masks?

Our original Face Mask Kit and Small/Kids' Face Mask Kit use a 2-layer mask, with the filter being an additional layer. In total the Face Mask Kits use a 3-layer design.

The Adrenaline Sports Face Mask Kit uses a 1-layer mask and the filter as an additional layer, for a total 2-layer design.

Can I wash the filters?

No. We do not recommend washing your face mask filters, as they were designed to be disposable. 

What are the filters made of?

The Essential Filters are made out of polypropylene, which is a material similar to polyester. They are meant to be disposable and are non-irritating for most skin types.

A shopper wears the Outdoor Research Face Mask.

How do cold temperatures affect the filter?

We've tested the Essential Filter after exposure to cold and freezing temperatures with and without the presence of moisture. All tests show very little impact.

Why is there so much plastic packaging included in the mask that I ordered?

Our biggest priority is providing you with the best protection, and that includes the way in which your mask and filters are packaged. The Protective Storage Pouch is meant to be reused as a sanitary way to carry your mask and filter in your purse, backpack, car, and anywhere else that they could come into contact with germs. The plastic used in your storage pouch is extremely durable and can withstand the rigors of shipping travel, as well as be repurposed beyond the life of your mask as a first aid kit, in-field repair kit, art supply kit, and more.

A woman wears the Outdoor Research face mask while unpacking her van.

Tips/Best Practices for Wearing A Cloth Face Mask

  • Keep your face mask on your face, completely covering your nose and mouth, the entire time you’re in public
  • Don’t wear it down around your neck or up on your forehead
  • Touch your mask as little as possible—and if you do touch it, wash your hands
  • Handle your mask by touching the ear loops or ties—not the face covering
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your face mask
  • Place your mask back in its protective pouch after removing it
  • Wash your hands immediately whenever you remove or handle your 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.

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