Although face coverings are being sold by numerous clothing companies and Etsy shops, I have not seen many reviews that compare masks for kids and adults. We’ve tried a lot of brands, but my kids and I only like a few of them. According to the CDC, “cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others”.
To encourage compliance and making masks part of the daily routine, fit and comfort are important. Since everyone has a different face, trying various masks might be necessary to ensure the best fit.
Please note this post was originally published on July 1, 2020 (Facebook share here) and has since been updated with new information.
Disclaimer: Although I am a pediatrician, this content is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, other qualified health provider, and local public health department with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the internet.
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Review and Comparison of Cloth Masks for Kids and Adults
Other helpful articles about Coronavirus and prevention
- Talk to Kids About Coronavirus in Chinese and Engilsh with NPR’s Comic (Printable)
- How to Encourage Kids To Wear Masks and Protect the Community
What age can kids wear face masks?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children over age 2 years can wear face masks. Babies and toddlers under age 2 years should not wear masks due to the risks of suffocation, strangulation, and choking. Per the CDC, face coverings should also be avoided in persons who have trouble breathing or those who cannot remove the mask without assistance.
Which mask is most protective against infection?
N95 respirator masks are the most effective, followed by KN95s and surgical masks. While cloth masks are generally not as effective in preventing infection compared to the aforementioned options, they are still more useful than wearing nothing at all.
N95 respirators are still in short supply and should be reserve for front-line health care workers. KN95s and surgical masks have become more readily available, but many counterfeit products are also being sold.
Since cloth masks have an important role during shortages, fit issues, and authenticity concerns, I hope this overview from our dual physician family can help you find comfortable masks to protect your community!
Features of a good cloth mask
In my opinion, the ideal mask should:
- Consist of multiple layers of soft fabric that covers the nose (including bridge), mouth, chin, and sides of face
- Have a nose wire and adjustable ear straps for a snug but comfortable fit
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be made of a fabric with a slot for a disposable filter or have a washable filter
Fit is extremely important for efficacy. According to ACS publications, “gaps (as caused by an improper fit of the mask) can result in over a 60% decrease in the filtration efficiency.”
From a comfort standpoint, if you wear glasses, a nose wire can help seal gaps across your cheeks. Otherwise, your lenses might fog up! Also, a nose wire might prevent a mask from slipping down your face.
Important: To prevent spread of infection, face masks SHOULD NOT have valves!! Valves allow for the wearer to exhale potentially infected air into whatever room you’re in!
Do’s and don’ts for wearing a mask
- Do wash hands before and after wearing mask.
- Don’t touch the front of the mask.
- Do remove the mask by the straps after hands are washed and you’re safe at home.
- Don’t take off your mask to talk to people. This completely defeats the purpose of wearing a mask.
- Do practice with your child many times at home before going out.
The New York Times has a great visual examples explaining how to avoid common mistakes with mask wearing.
How many masks do I need?
Everybody’s face shape is different, so I recommend starting with 1 or 2 of each brand to see which one is most comfortable.
For each day that your family plans on going outside, I suggest having a few masks ready per person. For my daughter who recently returned to school, she brings:
- A mask for the morning
- Another mask for the afternoon after lunch
- A lanyard to prevent the mask from falling or getting lost
- 2 extra masks in her backpack as backup
The ideal number of masks to buy also depends on how frequently you are able to do laundry.
At this time, I’m not aware of any official guidelines on how frequently to change cloth masks. However, based on recommendations for changing surgical masks in a world with no shortages, I would change cloth masks frequently. For example, my kids change their masks when they are wet (eg, drool, sneezes, sweat), visibly soiled, or every couple hours.
When we’re out and about, we carry 2 cloth or silicone bags to store our masks:
- 1 bag for clean, fresh masks
- 1 bag for worn masks that need to be washed
After taking off dirty masks, we put them in the “dirty” bag. Then we wash our hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer.
How to store and organize cloth masks
Belt hanger racks have been perfect for storing and organizing our cloth masks, and the set up helps my kids see their mask options!
Comparison and review of 11 cloth masks for kids and adults
After trying numerous masks, I’ve found that the best mask typically has a nose wire, adjustable ear straps, +/- a filter or filter pocket.
Please note that I have no sponsorship with any of these companies, but some have offered discounts for my readers.
Masks # 1 and 2 in this list are our favorite for my kids and myself. For reference, my children are currently 4 and 7 years old (they were 3 and 6 when I first published this post).
After a long search of cloth masks, none fit my husband, so he is wearing disposable face masks outside of work since our supply is currently adequate.
(1) Happy Masks
Happy Masks is a Taiwanese-American mask company. Their masks for adults and kids have a reusable nanofiber membrane with >99% filtration efficacy. These are among my kids’ favorite cloth masks because they are extremely light, breathable, and comfortable with adjustable ear loops. They do not muffle sound as much as other masks. My daughter wears these to school. My husband and I do not wear these masks, however. The ear loops bother me, and they are too small for my husband’s larger face and higher nose bridge.
The masks must be handwashed and air dried. Please see the Happy Mask website for instructions and duration of efficacy. A brilliant mom shared with me that she marks the straps to keep track of each wear!
Use coupon code CHALK10 for free standard shipping off your order with Happy Masks! Promo code is valid for 1 order.
(2) The Universal Mask (Formerly 3MD Med Masks)
These masks were created by 3 American physicians and came highly recommended by other doctor friends. Currently, The Universal Mask offers 3 types of masks, all of which are machine-washable, hang-dry, with adjustable nose wire:
- Adult mask with 5 micron felt filter with VFE of 93.6%
- Adult community mask with a VFE of 81%
- Adult disposable masks
- Kids mask
We’ve had these for ~1 year, and the kids’ masks fit both of my children very well. Since the ear loops and nose wire are adjustable, the mask creates a great seal around their faces, much better than most masks. Please note that this kids’ mask has no filter or filter pocket.
Initially, I liked the 5 micron felt filter mask with the ties, but they got too stiff after several washes. I now wear the adult community mask in low-risk settings, such as the beach or park.
On the other hand, their community mask would likely be better for people who need a lightweight fabric, and I ended up wearing this often to the beach. Non-medical friends have shared that the 5 micron felt masks felt too thick and uncomfortable. The adult mask is too small for my husband who is over 6ft tall and apparently has a large head since most cloth masks are too small for him!
They now have 4-ply surgical masks on their website which I find to be more comfortable and less scratchy than other surgical masks. They are a bit loose for my face though.
Use this link for 10% off your order with The Universal Mask!
So many friends have recommended Vistaprint TruMask! They have a variety of fabric patterns. More importantly, their masks have kid and adult sizes, adjustable ear loops, pockets for filters, and nose wires.
Unfortunately, my kids and I did not like these masks. The fabric lacks structure and thus easily sticks to our mouths when breathing and talking. However, since I heard many great reviews and they have free and relatively fast shipping, it may be worth getting a couple to see if they work for your family.
Figs is a popular company that mainly sells scrubs for healthcare workers. Currently, they offer adult masks in 2 sizes: S/M and M/L. They do not have kids’ masks. These were our former nanny’s favorite masks which she describes as lightweight and smooth. Although they fit her perfectly, size S/M is too small for me, and size M/L is too large for me and too small for my husband!
You may have also heard of Jaanuu, another popular medical clothing company which sells adult and kids masks. I’ve heard from other doctors that their ear loops are soft and adjustable, but the downside is the lack of a filter slot and nose bridge.
At $4 for a pack of 2, this is one of the cheapest mask options! These have only 2 layers of cloth, but they have a slot for a filter. The L/XL fits my husband reasonably well, but again with no nose wire, there are gaps next to his nose. Since many of you said the XL masks fit your husbands, I thought it was worth mentioning here since the cost is so low!
Masks that didn’t work for us
Remember: function over fashion!!
- Under Amour: My husband was excited about expensive size XL Under Amour Sportsmasks that were designed for extended wear during exercise. Since they sell out fast, he waited 3 months for them to come, only to find that they were way too large. The reviews are mixed with several complaints about inconsistent sizing.
- Reebok has affordable thin black masks that my husband loved but they shrunk and did not fit after a few washes
- Everhart is a Korean-American shop that makes cute standard cloth masks with a filter pocket. However, without a nose wire or adjustable ear loops, the fit is going to be hit or miss. The masks fit my daughter but not my son, my husband, or myself.
- We’ve had Elestory masks for a few months in Adult Men, Adult Women, and kids’ sizes. Initially, the masks fit everyone well with nice and wide coverage. The big downside is the lack of a nose bridge wire and the masks shrunk after a few washes. Therefore, we no longer recommend these masks.
- I splurged on designer Vivian Chan’s masks which are made from fabrics from her chic dresses. Unfortunately, both masks that I ordered are uncomfortable. One was too small (extremely tight ear loops); the mask that fits is too itchy.
- I also bought linen masks from HiddenBloom (Etsy), but the inner lining kept getting stuck to my nose and mouth! The fabric was also a bit itchy.
Disposable children’s masks
If you are going to the doctor’s office or hospital, a disposable mask is convenient to throw away after going to a high-risk area. The downsides are that they add to the landfill and poor quality masks may rip easily.
Where to buy:
Be careful about kids’ surgical masks on Amazon from 3rd party sellers and read reviews.
Remember: surgical masks are not necessarily better than cloth masks if the fit is poor or if worn incorrectly. Each time I go to the grocery store, I cringe seeing all of the people who are wearing N95 and surgical masks the wrong way! What a waste!
Dangerous masks to avoid
I need to reiterate this: please DO NOT buy masks with valves, because exhalation valves can push infected air from your body into the room or area that you’re in.
If you already have masks with valves, please wear another mask over it.
Where to buy filters
You can buy MERV 16 rated nanofiber mask filters from Filti.
Although they sell a DIY mask kit, my kids and I think the filter material is too itchy to wear directly on the face. We prefer to insert Filti’s filter in our mask pockets.
Use code chalkacademy15 for 15% of your order with Filti!
What about face shields?
Face shields and masks serve different but complimentary functions that are not interchangeable. According to the CDC:
It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. Some people may choose to use a face shield when sustained close contact with other people is expected.
If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin.
Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use.
Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
Plastic face shields for newborns and infants are NOT recommended.
In other words, the problem with face shields is that infectious droplets from breathing, talking, coughing, and sneezing can still get out from the sids of a shied. In contrast, a mask with good seal around the mouth and nose could absorb those secretions.
This article from Health Day goes over pros and cons of masks versus face shields.
For young children who truly cannot tolerate masks, face shields like this one with high reviews can be considered if your child’s school allows it. The shield can be cleaned with alcohol or soap and water while the hat can be washed after use.
Some kids find the face shields more comfortable while others find them hot. As with masks, have your kids practice wearing these around your house and yard!
The bucket hat fits my 4-year-old son and my 7-year-old daughter, and it also fit them when they were 3 and 6 years old, respectively. To be honest, my son has only worn it once outside the house when I got my haircut, but I’ve seen a lot of toddlers wearing it to preschool.
For teachers and other adults
Rapid Response PPE offers unique reusable, lightweight, face shields with better coverage that the typical face shield.
This might be a good option for teachers involved in speech therapy or with students who are deaf or hard of hearing where full view of the face is crucial for communication skills.
You can also find more mask tips in my Instagram story highlights!
Have you ordered cloth masks for your family or are you wearing surgical masks?
What cloth masks do your children like? How many do they have? Have you tried face shields?
Please share your experience in the comments below!
If you were one of the many people sewing and donating masks, thank you on behalf of my family, friends, and the healthcare community.
We’re all in this together!
Other helpful articles about Covid-19 and kids
- Is it safe to send my child to child care during COVID-19? (Healthy Children)
- 4 Tips for Communicating While Wearing a Mask (UNC Healthcare)
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