It has probably become commonplace for many of us to pop on a face mask when we’re going shopping or travelling on public transport, with most governments and healthcare advisory bodies recommending we wear cloth masks. Although we have all become accustomed to the standard medical-grade white and blue disposable mask, there are many sustainable ways of caring for and ensuring your pretty, nonmedical fabric mask is safe, effective and clean.

The most efficient form of face covering is one that keeps you from spreading as well as inhaling germs. The fabric needs to be thick enough to prevent both. If you decide to create masks at home use brand new material and opt for a dense fabric that doesn’t allow light to pass through once it’s held up to a window. This will be an effective fabric to use for a mask or face covering. A high-quality cloth which has been tightly woven will work the best and material with a looser structure will allow particles to pass through the fabric. Alternatively, layering a more delicate fabric such as a scarf or neckerchief with disposable material like coffee filters or fabric hoover bags will ensure your mask is safe and effective.

Whether you are creating your mask yourself or ordering one, it’s essential it fits correctly around your face and ears. If the mask is too big or needs constant readjusting, it won’t be effective. Similarly, if the mask is broken or faulty it won’t work in keeping you or the people around you safe. Any sufficient face covering should mask your mouth and nose, with the straps around your ears or head sitting securely, tight enough to keep the mask in place.

To ensure your fabric mask is safe to wear, it’s important to wash them regularly, ideally after each use. Washing your mask with soap and hot water or in the washing machine with regular detergent will kill any surface germs and will keep the mask performing at its best. Ideally using the highest temperature setting and not wearing or handling your mask until the fabric has dried will ensure germs have been killed. If you are using a thinner fabric with a filter insert, wash the fabric and replace the insert as often as possible.

Using the correct material and ensuring it’s cleaned regularly will mean your mask is safe and effective. Having several handy makes it easy to rotate to a clean one each time you travel or shop. Although there are a plethora of reasons to wear a mask, it doesn’t mean they have to be scary or unflattering. There are a range of possibilities to find masks you like. Choose fabric in colours that match your wardrobe or make you feel happy while wearing them. Ensure each mask feels comfortable to wear while also working effectively. Masks have been worn regularly across the world, now it’s time to embrace them as part of our everyday looks.

Words by Ella Neish.

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