Next to the Spanish flu of 1918, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been one of the biggest medical scares in all of American history. As a country, we need to do everything we can to combat the spread of this virus.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommend that people wear face masks to cover their mouths and noses while they’re out and about at the grocery store or any other public area.

A good mask won’t stop you from getting the virus, but it will stop you from contributing to the germ pool, which is huge in getting the nation back to “normal,” or as close to normal as possible at any rate.

You may be getting a lot of mixed messages about what’s safe, and while I am not a medical professional, I spoke with a respiratory therapist to get the lowdown on what’s best in mask wear.

Take a look at what the medical community and the CDC is recommending when it comes to wearing masks. And don’t forget to wash your hands regularly and sanitize, sanitize, sanitize! 

“If you cough or sneeze, the mask can catch those respiratory droplets so they don’t land on other people or surfaces. It is going to protect your neighbor.”
– Dr. Daniel Griffin, Columbia University

What Are the Different Types of Face Masks?

The CDC and WHO approve of basic and surgical face masks for public use. These type of masks are specially designed to prevent you from spreading any illness you may have.

The different types of face masks include:

  • Basic cloth face mask
  • Surgical face mask
  • N95 respirator
  • Filtering facepiece respirator
  • P100 respirator/gas mask
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus
  • Full face respirator
  • Full length face shield
  • KN95 respirator

Basic Cloth Face Mask

This is your standard, everyday version of a face mask. It’s also the version recommended for public use in the midst of COVID-19. You can wear this type of face mask while going to the grocery store, gas station, or any other open public place.

Surgical Face Mask

An FDA-approved surgical mask is made from a thin, disposable material. Medical professionals who are currently operating drive-thru testing for COVID-19 are wearing a version of this face mask that covers not just their nose and mouth, but also their eyes, cheeks, and forehead. You’ll also see this type of mask worn in hospitals by doctors and respiratory therapists.

N95 Respirator

You won’t find N65 Respirators worn by the general public. This type of face mask is critical for health care workers and medical first responders. Please don’t use/purchase this type of mask if you are not working directly with patients. Supplies are scarce right now, and these masks need to be reserved for those who really need them. 

Filtering Facepiece Respirator

Like surgical masks, this type of face mask is disposable. It’s not commonly used to stop the spread of airborne illnesses, but rather is worn to decrease exposure to particles that come from wood dust, animal dander, and pollen. Those with allergies might consider using this type of face mask during the pandemic.

P100 Respirator/Gas Mask

A P100 respirator isn’t commonly associated with healthcare. It’s instead worn by painters, woodworkers, and anyone who may be in contact with lead, asbestos, or chemicals. You shouldn’t wear this type of mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

Firefighters commonly wear this type of face mask so they can breathe clean air in dangerous situations. There’s absolutely no need to wear this type of face mask during the spread of COVID-19. If you do purchase one, you’re taking it away from a firefighter or rescue worker that may actually need it.

Full Face Respirator

Do you have a hard time breathing in a cloth or surgical mask? A full face respirator, which is typically used for home improvement projects, may be a good choice for you. This type of mask, however, should be reserved for those who already have breathing problems or respiratory issues.

Full Length Face Shield

This is a mask that’s a flimsier, plastic version of the glass ones you see worn by welders. It covers the entire face from forehead to chin and secures with a cushioned headband. For the most part, a full length face shield isn’t ideal during the COVID-19 crisis as it’s tough to breathe in over time.

KN95 Respirator

KN95 masks are very similar to N95 masks. Both capture about 95% of tiny particles in the air. The biggest difference is that N95 masks are able to capture larger particles.


Some surgical masks are not sealing tightly to the face, increasing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 particles. Fix the Mask, an organization started by ex-Apple engineers, is dedicated to solving the problem with new and improved mask designs.

What Type of Face Mask is Best for COVID-19?

The general consensus in the medical community is that cotton face masks are the best choice for stopping the spread of COVID-19.  This is because cotton filters out a higher percentage of particles than most other materials. Plus, cotton fibers are soft, cool, and breathable, which makes for a more comfortable fit.

Here are a few cotton face masks available at Quality Logo Products®

The CDC offers the following guidelines for wearing face masks:

  • Fits snuggly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Secures with ties or ear loops
  • Includes multiple layers of fabric
  • Allows for breathing without restriction
  • Able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Cotton checks off all those boxes. It’s easy to clean and comfortable to wear, while at the same time offering the most protection. You’re also not going to be taking away from any medical professionals, rescue teams, or people with breathing issues if you opt for this type of mask.

How to Make a Face Mask

You can create a makeshift face mask using a bandana, spare fabric, or bed sheets. It’s not as effective as a real face mask, but it’s better than nothing if shortages are preventing you from getting a proper one.

Amanda Perna of Project Runway spoke with Good Housekeeping and offered this DIY face mask project when you’re in a pinch.

What You’ll Need

Here’s how to easily make a face mask with a bandana:

  • Step One: Lay out a bandana or spare piece of fabric completely flat on a table.
  • Step Two: Place a flat coffee filter in the center of the fabric.
  • Step Three: Fold the fabric from the top and bottom toward the center over the coffee filter.
  • Step Four: Place your rubber bands, hair ties, strings, or shoelaces around each end of the folded fabric. Do not tie them around the fabric.
  • Step Five: Tuck each fabric piece into each other and pull your rubber bands or strings tightly.
  • Step Six: Slip the rubber bands or strings over your ears. You now have a completed face mask!

The Final Look

You can always tie the bandana or fabric as is around the back of your head without the addition of the hair ties and coffee filter. However, they help keep this makeshift face mask more securely in place.

How to Make a Face Mask Out of a T-shirt

Aside from bandanas and coffee filters, you can also use an old t-shirt to create a DIY face mask. It’s a relatively easy project to do and great when you can’t get your hands on a face mask easily.

What You’ll Need

Here’s how to make a face mask from an old t-shirt:

  • Step One: Measure a 15″ x 15″ square on your t-shirt and cut it out with scissors.
  • Step Two: Take one square from the cut fabric and bring it up diagonally to make a triangle.
  • Step Three: Fold the top of the triangle down twice. The first time you’ll bring it to the middle. The second time you’ll bring it all the way to the bottom.
  • Step Four: Secure a hair tie or rubber band around either end of the t-shirt fabric. Do not tie them around the fabric.
  • Step Five: Roll the fabric into the hair tie or rubber band on each side so it stays nice and tight.
  • Step Six: Secure the mask onto your face and stay safe

This entire process is quick and super easy to do! Plus, you’re finding a new use for your old t-shirts at the same time.

Watch this video from ABC News to see how to make a face mask from a t-shirt!

Final Thoughts

It’s a scary time out there, but face masks are a small way you can make a difference. You’re helping prevent the virus from spreading, which is crucial in getting the situation under control.

Masks aren’t necessarily the height of fashion, but they are the height of protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Get one while you can and stay safe out there!

Image sources

https://vandeweybalao.blogspot.com/2020/01/how-to-wear-N95-respirator-mask-with-pictures.html

https://www.amazon.com/ERB-13531-Filtering-Respirators-Particulate/dp/B002MBGTBO

https://www.amazon.com/3M-Facepiece-Respirator-Respiratory-Protection/dp/B00AR63OGE

https://www.natlenvtrainers.com/blog/article/selfcontained-breathing-apparatus-scba

https://www.homedepot.com/p/3M-Medium-Full-Face-Paint-Spray-Project-Respirator-Mask-Case-of-2-68P71PA1-A-NA/207063328

References

Ravandi, S. Valizadeh, M. (2011). Properties of Fibers and Fabrics that Contribute to Human Comfort. Retrieved from, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/cotton-fibre

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19. Retrieved from, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

Wamsley, L. Aubrey, A. (2020, April 3). Coronavirus FAQs: Is a Homemade Mask Effective? And What’s the Best Way to Wear One? Retrieved from, https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/04/03/826996154/coronavirus-faqs-is-a-homemade-mask-effective-and-whats-the-best-way-to-wear-one

Feitzelberg, R. (2020, April 6). Understanding the Different Types of Face Masks. Retrieved from, https://wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/understanding-the-different-types-of-face-masks-1203554020/

Esposito, L. (2020, April 3). Do Face Masks Work? Types and Effectiveness. Retrieved from, https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/do-face-masks-work-types-and-effectiveness

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks (Face Masks). Retrieved from, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-and-face-masks

UCSC Industrial Hygiene Services. Filtering Facepiece Respirators. Retrieved from, https://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/safety-ih/documents/n95.pdf

Miller, A. Brueck, H. Gal, S. (2020, March 11). All the Different Types of Face Masks, and Who Should Wear Them During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Retrieved from, https://www.businessinsider.com/types-of-masks-used-for-coronavirus-outbreak-n95-surgical-2020-3

Talhelm, T. (2020, April 20). What’s the Difference Between N95 and KN95 Masks? Retrieved from, https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/whats-the-difference-between-n95-and-kn95-masks/

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over three years of experience in the industry. Her passion for writing has led to a BA in English & Communications from Aurora University and work published for the Advertising Specialty Institute and The Bolingbrook Sun Times.