Wearing a face mask can reduce the potential of inadvertently spreading the virus that causes covid-19 disease, and now we are facing the challenge of incorporating face masks into our lives. Here are some of the ideas we've seen and heard for wearing and maintaining face masks.
Simplify Storage for Clean and Dirty Face Masks
You need to keep the clean ones clean and the dirty ones away from everything. Here is what I'm doing:
Clean masks: I use a container with a snap-lock lid to store clean face masks and my filter stuff. This plastic box stays by the front door.
Dirty Masks: I have two storage solutions, one is a dedicated bag in the car so we can remove them at the end of a trip and just close them in the bag. The other is a box in the garage with a mesh lingerie laundry bag inside. I put the masks into the laundry bag and close the box. When it's time to wash they are already in the laundry bag and ready to throw in the machine
Solutions for Washing Face Masks
To save time I wash all the masks at once inside mesh lingerie laundry bags. After the masks are in the washing machine I sanitize the surfaces they were on and wash my hands.
Why Do Different Manufacturers Have Different Washing Instructions?
Not all cotton fabrics will shrink the same amount and the factors that can affect shrinking are partially under your control and partially due to the fabric itself. Cotton will shrink more if washed and/or dried in hot temperatures, so if you are happy with your face mask at the current size then you should stick with cold water and low heat (or even line drying) to prevent that mask from shrinking. When manufacturing sewn items the fabrics are stacked and cut all at once in tall stacks. It is not possible to pre-shrink cotton fabrics unless you are cutting the fabric in a small quantity. And in case you haven't already learned the hard way, adding bleach will affect the color. Bleach can also damage elastic, so it might be best to avoid it entirely.
These face masks wadded up during the wash, and it may be impossible to avoid this when using a washing machine. I wash in a lingerie bag, remove the damp masks and straighten and flatten each mask individually, then let them hang dry or flat dry.
Mask Washing Tips
- Remove wet masks from the mesh bag after washing and smooth and straighten damp masks at the seams and edges, then hang to dry. This is a fast step that you can use to minimize wrinkling and it will stretch out the fabric along seam lines just a little.
- Cotton face masks can be ironed. Do not iron elastic.
You can read the CDC article on washing personal use face mask coverings here.
Problems Wearing Masks - Fogging
If you wear glasses then you are probably concerned with fogging. Here is what we've learned:
- Adding a facial tissue into the filter pocket is helpful.
- Wear the mask high on your nose and place glasses on top of the mask.
- You do not want a gap at the top of the mask, as a gap would allow your exhale to blow upwards. If there is a gap can you tighten the mask behind your head? Fold a tissue and place it between the mask and your skin, creating a layer of absorbent paper.
- Wash glasses with simple dish soap (this kind of soap recommended as it is gentle on the expensive lens coatings you bought) and then allow the glasses to air dry.
- Use an anti-fogging agent on your lenses, look for products made for ski goggles or snorkel masks.
I wear my face mask high on my face and place my glasses on top to help reduce fogging, but I also do the other things mentioned above.
When we started designing face masks we knew that some people would not want ear loops, and our solution was to make an option with behind the head elastic. This style uses two bands of fixed elastic. You've got to "crawl" into the mask, so it might not work for people with mobility issues. You can see our face mask with behind the head elastic here.
Our behind the head elastic face mask does not use the ears or ear loops
Problems Wearing Masks - Your Ears
There are a number of reasons some people can't use ear loop elastics, you may not have even though about this if you don't have the problems yourself. Not all people have an ear shape that is compatible. Sometimes there is just too much competition for that space, like you might already have glasses and a hearing aid and there's just not more room for an ear loop. These solutions are also worth trying if a mask is too large.
Attach Ear Loop to Ear Loop
The ear loops don't need to hang on your ears, they can attach to each other. This might require an extension. Here is one I quickly made with a piece of grosgrain ribbon and two big buttons.
The finished length is about 4 inches, and here is a selfie photo showing this simple thing in use. This would be a good way to control the length as you attach two ear loops behind your head.
Homemade ear saver made of ribbon and big buttons
This piece of grosgrain ribbon is about 4" long. I think that it will be easier and more secure if you use big buttons. You can buy things like this from Etsy sellers, I'd suggest doing a search for "ear saver mask holder" or "ear saver crochet".
3-D printed or Laser Cut Ear Savers
We are offering a laser cut ear saver made of 1/8" thick clear acrylic. It's easy to disinfect and allows a lot of adjustment.
We also have flexible ear savers made of laser cut polypropylene plastic. This substrate is lightweight, thin, and can be disinfected. The flexible ear savers have multiple notches which makes them sizeable.
Other Household Items
You may have access to other things that can work as a hook, clip or extension. Here is a fun example:
The monkeys from the Barrel of Monkeys game can work well as an ear saver
Face Mask is too Big
If your face mask is too big and just hangs off of your ears you may still be able to use it if you attach it behind your head or to a hat. Sometimes if a mask doesn't fit you can get better results by adding an ear saver.
Out and About with Face Masks
Face masks need to be dry so sneezing or coughing are going to reduce their effectiveness. You may want to carry a backup face mask in a sealed plastic bag. My spare kit also includes some tissues and a travel bottle of hand sanitizer.
What Have You Learned?
People are good at solving problems, and we would love to hear how you've solved yours! I anticipate I will be updating this blog post after reading your comments, and will probably share some of these tips in upcoming email newsletters. Please leave any ideas or suggestions here, or drop us an email. You can read our first blog post about face masks here.