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Having a face mask on hand when you go out is essential. But the longer the pandemic persists, you more you may want to consider investing in a longer-term mask. The best disposable masks can be effective, especially if you’re using professional-grade N95 or KN95 masks or blue medical masks. But if you’re concerned about the waste factor of throwing away masks, or just don’t want to constantly remind yourself to buy more, reusable masks are the way to go.
Many of the top reusable face masks are cloth-based, and are fairly easy to clean. Think about a face mask like any other article of clothing that picks up dirt and grime when you step outside. Whether you’ve got a lightweight, breathable pick for summer months, or a heartier cotton blend winter mask, the material is still going to collect the sweat and condensation from your face and mouth.
The CDC still recommends washing cloth face coverings after every use, but that doesn’t mean reusable masks can’t be a convenient alternative to disposable ones. With proper care and cleaning, the best reusable masks can have a long lifespan, with protection that holds up against airborne viral particles. No more rooting around in your bag for another blue disposable mask, or checking online only to find that your favorite masks are sold out again.
Got the vaccine already? Even if it’s been two weeks after your final dosage, and you can now gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without a mask, the latest CDC guidelines still urge you to protect yourself and others when you’re in public. You’ll need to keep wearing a good-quality reusable or disposable mask for the near future, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
To help you pick out a great reusable, easy-to-wash mask, we’ve provided some tips on what to look for in mask that’s going to get a lot of mileage.
What Are the Best Reusable Face Masks?
According to the CDC, the most effective cloth masks have materials that follow these guidelines:
- Tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton and cotton blends
- Two or three fabric layers
That being said, always check the label of your mask, since some companies use custom fabric blends, especially to increase warmth during the winter, or wick moisture.
One of the most important factors is the seal of the mask itself. Your mask should fit tightly over your nose and mouth, not leaving any gaps that might allow viral particles to pass through. Look for a reusable face mask with adjustable ear straps, or masks with a tight cone shape that will fit the contour of the bridge of your nose. If your cloth mask doesn’t have adjustable straps, make sure it’s still form-fitting and won’t move around too much on your face.
You can also customize any reusable cloth mask you get to enhance the fit—there are flexible metal nose strips, or mask extenders, which will also have the added bonus of reducing how much your glasses fog up, if you wear them. Double-masking with a non-medical mask over a disposable medical mask is also a great way to have added layers of protection, combined with a tighter seal on your face.
The best cloth face coverings are also machine-washable, or can at least be washed by hand. While they won’t hold up forever, they can still be worn dozens of times, and washing them will help prevent them from building up bacteria and germs on the surface.
With that advice in mind, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks for reusable face masks that will stand up to frequent use.
1. Blue Bear ProSport Reusable Mask
Let’s face it—some reusable masks weren’t made to be worn comfortably on all face shapes. Blue Bear’s ProSport mask has a contoured design with adjustable ear-loops for both adults and kids, so you’ll feel secure for however long you’re outside. It’s lightweight and breathable enough for even the toughest of workouts too, but while “sport” is in the name, you don’t have to be pounding the pavement to get the most use out of this mask. This pick is durable, and has their own replaceable Nanotec Filters with three layers to keep protecting you up to 12 hours at a time.
2. är Small Logo Black Self-Cleaning Face Mask
Tested by our editors, this sleek and comfortable face covering is one of the best reusable masks on the market. Not only is är’s mask design as stylish as it gets, it checks all our boxes in terms of secure fit and protective coverage—each Nanofilter included in the mask comes with three layers (two layers non-woven material, one layer nanofiber) for maximum particle filtration, and the top has an aluminum nose strip that seals off any possible gaps. While you can’t just toss it in the washing machine, each Nanofilter lasts for up to 40 hours of continuous wear before needing to be replaced (the mask itself is machine-washable). The mask is also treated with a “ViralOff” coating, which the company says kills more bacteria, reducing the number of times you’ll have to clean it in between uses.
3. Cremöly Face Mask
Looking for an eco-friendly alternative to disposable masks? Each of Cremöly’s masks can be reused up to 60 times, and are designed with sustainable materials, including a layer made of natural latex that will only take six months to decompose, according to the site. They’re still super light and breathable, thanks to a skin-friendly cotton layer, as well as adjustable straps that will create a nice seal without feeling suffocating. Coming in a variety of colorful prints and designs, you can customize these environmentally-conscious masks to fit your personal style.
4. Brave New Look Protective Face Mask (with PM2.5 Filter)
Brave New Look’s CDC-approved non-medical masks are reusable, and come with a set of four PM2.5 filters, which are designed to capture tiny particles and contaminants in the air. Just slip one of the filters into the built-in pouch, and breath normally through the lightweight cotton and spandex blend. We recommend replacing the filter after one week, but the mask itself comes in a variety of colors and patterns, so you can chose one you won’t get bored of wearing every day.
5. Outdoor Voices Adjustable Face Mask
These double-layered, breathable face masks come with adjustable straps, so you’ll never have to worry about a flimsy fit or touching your face unnecessarily to move it around. Made from an 86% Polyester and 14% Spandex blend, you can easily throw them in the wash, and even in your dryer on a low setting. If you’re worried about always having to run your machine, these masks come in a pack of five, so you can rotate which ones you wear.
6. Rag & Bone The Stealth Mask Pack
Rag & Bone’s Stealth Masks are made from lightweight, upcycled materials, but have a cotton lining if you’re worried about comfort. As with most other masks made from 100% cotton, it’s recommended that you wash this mask before you use it first, and after every use, although you’ll have to hand wash these. But it’s totally worth it, as the mask is super convenient, with adjustable elastic straps and a pouch to safely store it in if you’re on the go.
7. Uniqlo Airism Mask
Airism has a washable, built-in filter, so you won’t have to constantly replace filters like some of our other masks on this list. For comfort at any size, Uniqlo offers three options (S, M, L) so you can get the best fit possible for a reusable mask. For outdoor activities, or hot summer days, this mask has a mesh layer that blocks out 90% of harmful UV rays so you won’t get a dreaded mask tan while out and about. Reviews have also said this mask is quick-drying, since the first layer of fabric is moisture-wicking, which makes it a good mask for running.
8. The Tie Bar 5-Pack Cotton Solid Masks
You wouldn’t think that a company known for its neckties and dress shirts would be designing fashionable and modern cotton face masks. But the two-ply cotton masks have an additional layer of shirting fabric, so you can pair it with just about any outfit. They also come with a built-in wire and adjustable ear loops, for a fit that’s as comfortable as it is protective. Maintaining these stylish masks is a breeze, just machine wash them and lay flat to dry.
9. Bonobos Riviera Face Mask
The Riviera cloth mask from Bonobos is not only washable, but has an additional pouch where you can add in your own filter. For an extra boost in comfort too, the mask is designed with double layers of cotton fabric, and a contoured, pleated shape to make room for the nose and mouth. You won’t have to worry about a secure fit, as the mask has two straps that go around the head and neck as opposed to over the ears, so there won’t be any gaps to speak of.
10. Sheertex Everywhere Mask
In terms of functionality, Sheertex packs a lot into their reusable face mask—their propriety knit blend means the face covering is cooling, lightweight, and moisture-wicking. The strings are adjustable, which is a big bonus, but the Everywear mask also has a naturally curved shape with edges that will hug your face naturally and stay in place. What we like: while this is a non-medical mask, there’s a built-in pouch for disposable filters, so you get both total facial coverage and more advanced filtration, if you want it.
11. Huckberry Merino Wool Face Mask
This mask may be made with layers of pillowy-soft Merino wool, but it can still retain its shape well after multiple machine washes. Triple-layered for comfort, Huckberry says Merino wool was also chosen for its “moisture-wicking, breathable, temperature-regulating, and odor-resistant” properties. You won’t be using your reusable mask during just one season, and this mask is a great year-round companion: it’ll stay dry in the summer, while keeping you warm and cozy during the winter months.
12. Everlane The 100% Human Face Mask
One of our favorite machine-washable face masks, this lightweight 100% cotton mask from Everlane has a CDC-approved double layer design. With a five-pack of these chic masks from Everlane, you don’t have to wear the same design every day, but the stretchy lycra ear loops make any of them comfortable enough for all-day wear. For every five-pack of masks sold, the company is also donating 10% of sales to the ACLU.