Tag: masks

2020 is behind us!

(Am I the only one that has mixed feelings about this?)

By Kitty

Well, that was…different.  

Most of us have some choice things to say on the subject of the year 2020, many of which are not fit to print.  Everyone experienced drastic changes.  Lives, jobs, and sanity were lost, the world became an utterly different shape, and the weirdness is far from over.

But still….

In some ways, it was a pretty good year in Kittyland.  That seems like 1) an awful thing to say, given the terrible things that have happened to so many people, and 2) a very strange thing to say, since I lost pretty much my entire income and became professionally unemployed.

Obviously, I’m not saying it was a good thing that the world went barking mad, or that the consequences of the pandemic (and everything it unearthed about what’s wrong with society) are anything but horrifying.  

I’m speaking purely from a personal philosophical place.  This is the year I spent sewing what feels like (and probably actually was) thousands of face masks, half of which were donated to essential workers and assorted shelters.  The year I found out that making money can be less important than making a difference.  The year where we grew tomatoes and squash and beans instead of our business, and learned that produce is easier to share than products.

When or if it becomes safe to have conventions again, we’ll no doubt return to the making and peddling of fancy dress.  But a part of me will remember with fondness a year in which my sewing skills and materials went toward making the world a little safer, not just prettier.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere, and I hope I’ll remember to take it with me when life approaches normal one day.

For a while there, it did feel as though I was playing hooky if I wasn’t spending every minute of the day churning out masks.  Now that mass production seems to have caught up with the demand for masks and vaccines are a real thing, I feel like we can indulge in a spot of frivolity.    

So here are some things I hope to write about in the near and intermediate future:

  • Bums.  Not the kind of bums that involve unemployment, but the kind you sit on.  I have gone on at some length in the past about the trials and tribulations of owning a non-standard bosom, and how to get clothes to fit around it (here, for instance).  Now I mean to branch out into the other curvy bit that can often be stroppy on a woman.  Even into the dreaded realm of pants fitting.
  • Feet.  More specifically, the atrocious things you might be doing to yours without even knowing, and what you can do about it.  The majority of foot problems are self-inflicted!
  • DIY tutorials.  One of the things I’ve learned last year is that we all could stand to be a bit more self-sufficient.  This is probably true even when the world isn’t going to pot, right?  Instead of just talking about things I’ve made, I mean to start showing you how to make them yourself, if you’re so inclined.  Maybe starting with a simple, no-fitting-required sewing project, progressing on to a T-shirt that actually fits your DDD cups and/or spectacular booty, and perhaps even going all the way to basic corsetry, if I don’t get lost in my garden first.  

Until next time, Kittens, stay safe and enjoy the fresh, crisp new year!

When Masks Are a Pain in the Arse – or Ears

Saving your ears while saving the world

By Kitty

UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written.  Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete.  Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.

“But masks hurt my ears!”

This seems to be the most common complaint we hear against the wearing of the face mask, our humble yet most valiant ally against the community spread of COVID-19. 

And yes, it’s true.  Ear elastics on masks do start to hurt after you’ve worn them for a while.  Some kinds of elastic take longer to start hurting than others, and some people have more sensitive ears.  But wear them long enough, and everyone’s ears get sore eventually.

Sometimes, it’s easiest to start a blog post with a photo or two:

Masks Can Help Save the World (but sore ears aren’t fun)

There’s no guarantee that we’ll have an fully effective coronavirus vaccine anytime soon.  Right now, one of the simplest and most useful things each one of us can do is to wear a face mask every single time we are in the company of other people. 

If everyone wore masks that fit correctly *and* followed all the safe use recommendations (there’s a summary of most of those here), we could stop the pandemic in its tracks, with or without a vaccine. But it’s really, really hard to get us humans to do something that hurts, even if “most everyone” agrees that it’s universally beneficial — otherwise, we would all lift weights and do high-intensity cardio five times a week.

Saving the World vs. Saving Your Ears

It’s easy for me to say we should wear masks whenever we’re in public.  I only need to pop one on for two minutes while I run into the shops for eggs and tea. 

But if your job involves interacting with other humans for an eight-hour shift, your trusty face mask becomes much more of a serious pain in the arse.   Or rather, ears.  Some of you have told  horror stories of bruised, chafed, or bleeding ears, even infected pressure sores.  Eeek.

You might feel tempted to pull it off during your coffee break just for a bit of blessed ear relief, but technically, that means you should put that mask in the “dirty” pile and replace it with a freshly laundered, unworn mask.  Safety guidelines say you should treat all masks as contaminated once they’ve been worn and handled, but are you *really* going to take four or five masks to work every day? 

Quite apart from that, you’ll probably find that a brief respite doesn’t actually help all that much with the sore ears problem.  Your ears will just start hurting again in a minute or two, because it takes longer than a brief break for the pressure spots to recover. 

Worse yet, wearing a mask day after day after day can make those spots progressively more painful over time.  And if you do have active chafing, sores or bruises, it’s a terrible idea to place elastics over that area, since you could introduce infection.

What You Can Do About It (some options that are already out there)

#1 – Ties instead of elastics

When some of you first brought this problem to my attention, we started offering ties that go behind the head instead or elastics that hook on your ears.  This works just fine for lots of people, but has drawbacks for others.

PROS: Ties don’t pull on your ears, and are adjustable to just the tightness you like. 

CONS: The upper ties can chafe the top of the ear area, because they still need to sit at ear level.  Some people find it too fiddly to get the ties done up.  Others have mobility or coordination issues that make it downright impossible to tie a bow at all, never mind behind the head.  Bow knots can slip or lose tension over time.  This one only happens to some people because there’s more than one way to tie a bow knot, but if it does happen to you, you have to re-tie the mask or face a safety hazard if you have touch the mask to push it up your face.  Personally, I can’t seem to do ties without painfully catching my hair in the knots.

#2 – Those plastic mask holder thingies, and improvised alternatives

You know, those little gadgets that hold the elastics behind your head.  You *must* of course remember to sanitize them every single day after removing your mask.  You can even use a plain hair clip, shoelace, S-hook, or ribbon as an improvised mask holder, like these:

PROS: They actually work really well for some people with the right ear shape and angle, particularly for those whose ears sit low on their heads relative to their nose.  If mask holders work for you, hooray!  Your sore ear issues are solved.

CONS:  If your ears join your head at a higher point, mask holders will only help a little bit, or not at all, because the elastic will still be resting/rubbing on the top of your ear where it attaches to your head.  I personally fall into this category.  If the back of your head sticks out significantly more on the top half than on the bottom half, mask holders can cause your mask to creep down your face, because now you only have a single point of pull instead of two.  Your head isn’t symmetrical, so the whole thing slides down toward the smaller half.  Basically,  if using a mask holder doesn’t make your mask stay put over time, it’s not for you. 

#3 – Hats or headbands with buttons, or special hairstyles to hold the elastic

Sorry, I’m not making headgear just to get a picture, because I’d like to get this blog posted sometime this week.  Though I’m not ruling out trying them for fun sometime.  And I do not have enough hair to show the hairstyle option.  There are loads of photos on the internet if you want to see what these look like. 

PROS: If your workplace or your personal style allows you to wear headbands/ball caps/surgical head-covers with buttons on them every day, *and* if you get the height and angle of the button placement customized so it’s just right for you,  these can keep the elastic quite clear of your ears.  If you have enough hair to create Princess Leia space buns on the sides of your head (you hook or pin the elastic onto the buns instead of your ears), lucky you — you’re more blessed than many of us. 

CONS: If headbands/hats/head coverings are just not for you, this category is right out.  It’s probably hard to make these work with a suit and tie, say, or if you work at a funeral home.  If you have short, fine or no hair, obviously the space buns option is a no-go.  You still need to sanitize any headgear after every use, so you’d need one for each day of the week you don’t do laundry, in addition to masks — that’s a lot of hats.  If you tend to get hot easily, anything that covers part of your head can build up heat uncomfortably fast.

#4 – Elastics that go behind the head

PROS: This kind of elastic doesn’t pull your ears forward.  There’s a separate point of pull for the top and bottom halves of your head, so masks tend to stay in place better than if you used a mask holder.  It’s relatively easy to customize the tightness by tying a knot or using a slider.

CONS: the upper elastic can still rest on and rub your ears, depending on their shape and placement.  Some people find that this kind of elastic causes even worse chafing than the kind that loops around the ears, because it slides around more with the motion of your head through the day (around-the-head elastics move against your skin when you tilt or turn your head, look up/down, or nod).

So…Velcro (aka my current solution to the ouchy ear problem)

Technically, I should say “hook and loop tape.” But we all know I mean off-brand Velcro.

After a good deal of experimentation, I’m presently voting for a weird combination: the upper part of the mask fastened with flat straps and Velcro, and the lower part with a soft elastic. 

You can close the straps at any height that feels comfortable to you.  The position can vary a lot depending on the shape of your head and the placement of your ears, and whether you want the straps to sit well above your ears or pass over them — just don’t let them rest *on* your ears like ear loops to avoid soreness.

Why Velcro?  Several reasons:

  1. It’s easy to use.  Most people (the butter-fingered, the arthritic, those of the child persuasion, etc) find it relatively manageable.
  2. It’s adjustable.  If we use a generous length of Velcro, you can adjust the fit of the straps by a couple of inches.  This ability to customize the tightness should keep the mask securely in place without you needing to push it up or down, which is an important safety feature.  I sound like a broken record, but you really, really shouldn’t touch your mask while you’re wearing it!
  3. It doesn’t slip.  You’re not going to find your Velcro-locked mask slowly getting looser and sliding down over the course of your day, the way you might with a tied knot.

Why not Velcro and straps on the bottom too?

As for the bottom elastic, it’s more comfortable than Velcro against the sensitive skin on the nape of your neck (especially if you prefer to have it under your hair, or if you have short hair).  Since it’s not resting or exerting any pressure on your ears at this level of the mask, a nice soft elastic definitely feels nicer here. 

Also, non-elastic straps against the back of your neck can actually be restrictive enough to make your muscles tense up reflexively.  This can lead to headaches and shoulder or neck pain.  They can also dig in or chafe, which kind of defeats the point of this whole exercise.

I was somewhat surprised to find that you don’t need Velcro, or a lot of adjustability, at the bottom level of the mask.  The customizable, super-secure fit of the upper strap hold the mask in place pretty well all by itself, even without the lower elastic strap.  The elastic is pretty much just insurance.

In Conclusion

Would I use this strap/elastic combo on my own masks?  Well, it takes a LOT more time and materials to construct this contraption than it does to sew on a couple of lengths of elastic.  So realistically, I probably won’t bother with it for my normal life; as I mentioned, I never really go out except for super-brief nips into the shops once or twice a week.

However, … if I was going to be in any situation where I might need to wear a mask for hours instead of five minutes — such classes, a real job, or Disneyland — I would absolutely go to the trouble of making myself a strap-and-Velcro mask.  Ear elastics start to hurt my ears after twenty minutes or so, and I don’t think I want to find out what they would feel like after eight hours, never mind day after day.

I did test out my sample Anteater mask with Velcro straps by wearing it for several hours.  I lugged bolts of fabric around.  I bent over.  I even repeatedly took off and put on a high-necked T-shirt, which I was in the process of fitting.

And I kind of forgot I was wearing a mask!  Absolutely no ear discomfort whatsoever.  I was actually shocked at how securely the straps held the mask in place.  Normally, *everything* (including every hairpin and headband known to humankind) slides helplessly down my Teflon-coated Asian hair.  Maybe Velcro is magic, or I just have a good skull shape for this.

As per usual, we’re planning to throw the Velcro strap-and-elastic “ear saver” option on our masks website for those of you who have found none of the other alternatives satisfactory.  As with those all options, this will work for some of us and not for others — but each additional person who can wear masks without pain has got to be a win, right?

P.S.: If you want or need to try masks with the “ear saver” straps before we get it loaded onto our website, just contact us directly and we’ll see what we can do.

A Mask for All Seasons

(Or, introducing the most breathable mask style ever.  Especially for this heat.)

By Kitty

UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written.  Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete.  Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.

As I sit here writing this, the thermometer says it’s 38 Celsius outside.  That’s over 100 Fahrenheit if you only speak American; it’s just plain mythical if you live in England, as I did once upon a time.  And they told me Canada was cold….

Of course, I’m trying very hard to avoid going outside, because fainting from heatstroke often offends.  But tomorrow, we’ll run out of milk, and I’ve promised to bring the neighbours some of our exploding zucchini crop, meaning I will have to don a face mask sooner rather than later.  Zucchini waits for no one!

Impatient Zucchini

To Mask or Not to Mask

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve now firmly come over to the Mask Side of the Force (if you want to know why, I explain my reasons here).   Sweet are the uses of a well-fitting, properly-worn face mask, as Shakespeare almost said.  But it is getting harder to appreciate its charms as the midsummer heat bakes us all into a sticky, jammy mess.

Look, we all know that it’s a myth that a fabric face mask can significantly increase CO2 inhalation or prevent you from exhaling toxins or any of that rubbish (at least I hope we all know that, because science).  Still, when your face goes all squelchy and your mask sticks to you like clammy clingfilm, it can FEEL as though you can’t breathe, which is almost as bad.

Well, some people solve their problems with drink, and others with a chainsaw.  Your old Aunt Kitty solves all hers with sewing, and only occasionally tiramisu.  So I turned to a little experimental mask-redesigning, and here’s what I came up with:

Problem Solved

It looks simple enough, doesn’t it?  But those looks deceive!  You wouldn’t believe the sheer amount of pattern-making gymnastics I had to go through to reach this end result.

First, note that this style of face mask has a distinctly 3D profile, even just lying there on a flat surface.  Not to bore you with too many details, but that dimensional volume is achieved through a plenitude of darts, tucks, pleats, and weird seaming.  The ziggurat-like sides might look funky on the table, but through some stitch sorcery, they make a nice gap-free fit once the mask is actually on you. 

Hmm.  I think a name just suggested itself.  Dear Kittens, meet my shiny new invention, the Ziggurat mask!  Tantara-ra.

But I digress.  Getting back to the mask and the way it fits:  it feels like it’s making serious contact with the face ONLY at the outside edges of the mask, NOT in the middle bit.  In these photos, you can see how the centre of the whole structure stays up and off the mid-face:

In short, when you wear it, there’s plenty of clear space between it and your nostrils and mouth.  All that soft-sculpting and engineering have created a dome-like structure which keeps the fabric partially lifted up and away from your airways and skin, where it really counts.  It makes the mask feel less hot and sweaty to wear, and infinitely easier to breathe through.  

Comfortable in Hot Weather

It’s so much more comfortable in the summer heat than the standard mask designs we’ve tried.  Both Felix and Kitty liked this new style more than the our previous favourites, which was a surprise to us.  Before this, Felix had strongly preferred the Accordion style mask, which Kitty couldn’t stand, while Kitty had liked the contoured style, which Felix equally loathed. 

Since we have face shapes that are pretty much polar opposites of each other, it’s to be expected that we would prefer different mask styles (see here and here for a discussion of mask styles for assorted face shapes and sizes).  I have no idea why we both love this new one, but it really does seem to fit each of us reasonably well.  Here are some photos of Felix and Kitty in masks made from exactly the same pattern:

Maybe it’s because the whole point of the newly-named Ziggurat mask is that it DOESN’T closely follow the contours of your face, but rather keeps the #$%& off your hot sticky icky skin.  I mean, while we have wildly different facial features, but in the (relatively for a mask) vast airy space under that 3D dome, we might be harbouring anything and you wouldn’t know it.  Pointy or snub noses, flat or round cheeks, pouty or recessed mouth, it really doesn’t matter much in a mask that’s designed expressly to rise (literally, tee hee) above all that.

The top line is curved to give good coverage over the nose bridge without getting in the way of your eyes, and the pleats, which only go over the bottom part of the mask, will open up as needed to accommodate different chins and face lengths.  Or a beard, if you have one.

Oh, and if you wear glasses (or sunglasses, which means pretty much everyone in the glaring summer sun), I find the Ziggurat mask is MUCH less liable to fog up your lenses than the other styles.  Partly it’s because the fit over the nose is contoured and darted within an inch of its life.  But I think it’s mainly because your exhaled breath takes the path of least resistance, which in this case is the big empty place over your airways and not up and over the top edge. 

When Summer is Gone?

Will we go back to my previously beloved mask styles when the weathers cools off?  Kitty probably will, at least when I feel like pretending to be somewhat fashionable.  The sleek face-skimming line of the “Put on a Good Face” mask is definitely more appealing (to me, anyway) than the slightly Plague Doctor aesthetic of the Ziggurat mask.  However, when it’s time for our winter hikes and comfort counts for more than style, I think I’ll make myself a few Ziggurats in cozy flannel or polar fleece.

On the other hand, Felix is never going back, being completely won over by the improved breathability of the new style over the Accordion mask.  Let’s face it, no one really wears an Accordion mask for its looks anyway (my bias may be showing here), just its practicality.  Whereas the Ziggurat mask has a certain Darth Vader-ish vibe, especially done in straight black, which is kind of fabulous if you can pull it off.  Felix, being a six-foot-tall man with a Roman nose and sculpted bone structure, can totally manage it.  Kitty, being round-faced and pug-nosed with apple cheeks, will not even try.

In Conclusion

The new Ziggurat mask will land on our website (masks.felixandkitty.com) very shortly after this goes to print.  If you have any questions or special requests in the meantime, you can always email us.

Come over to the Mask Side

We have the good people (and also the enlightened self-interested)

UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written.  Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete.  Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.

You know, Good People with capital letters.  The sort of people who actually care about other humans.  People who do the right thing even if it doesn’t benefit themselves, who give anonymously to orphans and pick up plastic at the beach.

People who wear face masks, even if they’re fit, healthy, and personally unconcerned about catching COVID-19.

Because the word is in, folks.  Up to 45% of us may be asymptomatic coronavirus carriers.  Granted, the science seems to get updated day by day.  But at the time of writing, experts say that some of us can carry and spread the novel coronavirus without showing any symptoms — maybe nearly half of us (though percentages vary quite a bit depending on whom you ask).

That’s enough for me: I’m officially coming down on the Mask Side of the Force.  Join me, and we can rule the universe together.  Or at least Forcefully prod things in the right direction.

Come Over to the Mask Side

Who Do Masks Protect?

Here’s the thing that confuses the issue: non-medical fabric masks don’t necessarily protect you from catching the virus if, say, someone sneezes in your face.  But they are pretty darn effective at protecting other people from you.

To the selfish and short-sighted, this makes mask-wearing pointless.  To the aforementioned Good People, it’s all the reason they need to wear masks every single time they set foot outside.  But what does this mean to everybody in between?

Now, I’m a misanthropic old bag and a terrible, awful human being who likes dogs and Daleks more than other people.  Social distancing is a blessing and self-isolation is just for days ending in “y”.  I am not Good People. 

But I am a reasonable person from a science background.  And as such, enlightened self-interest tells me that I should wear face masks wherever I go, and strongly encourage everyone in the world to do the same, at least until such time as we have a cure or a vaccine in adequate supply.

The Alien Hatchling Analogy

Allow me to explain myself using an absurd, gruesome, and oversimplified analogy.  Let’s say aliens abduct a thousand of us, impregnate a few hundred with their parasitic eggs, and release us into a nature reserve.  None of us know if we’re egged or not until the moment the hatching alien bursts through our nose.  It will then burrow into the nearest uninfected person’s belly, hatch its own eggs through his or her nose, and so forth, until no one’s left alive.

Luckily, we find some helmets lying around.  Wearing the helmets won’t stop the egg from hatching if you’re already infected, and they won’t prevent any roaming hatchlings from burrowing into your abdomen.  BUT (here’s the important bit) when when the hatchling emerges through someone’s nose, they will get trapped in the helmet and die, meaning they won’t be able to attack anyone else.

So, should we all wear the helmets?   Let’s take a vote.

If you’re already infected, the helmet won’t save you.  But what if you’re not infected?   Then if, and ONLY if, everyone wears one, it will absolutely save your life.  Not only that; every single uninfected person will survive.  

However, if someone refuses to wear the helmet, that person becomes an active danger to every other person, because if s/he hatches an alien, it can infect anyone, helmeted or not.  We can only save everyone if everyone wears the helmet.  Remember, the helmet does NOT take away the aliens’ power to infect you — it just imprisons them away from you. 

To my mind, it then makes all kind of sense to vote for helmets for everyone, even if I don’t know whether I’m infected or not.  I’m doing it to create an environment where the infection is contained within the infected, not because it renders me immune to wandering aliens.

Back To the Present Situation

In the real world, if we can create a scenario where everyone keeps their alien hatchlings (aka virus-laden droplets) contained in a helmet (aka face mask), the lives saved could be yours or mine.  Or your child’s, your 93-year-old granny’s, or your immune-compromised cousin’s.

This, friends and others, is why I now wear a mask every time I show my face in public.  Not because it will protect me from catching COVID-19 (statistically, there’s a decent chance that I already have and don’t know it), but because it’s the best I can do to promote a practice that means nobody will infect anybody. 

Next time you’re in line at the grocery store, take a good look around you, and imagine that nearly half of everyone you see might be carrying alien hatchlings just waiting to burst out and start burrowing.  Then imagine that  face masks could stop that happening, if only they’d all wear one.  Kinda puts things in perspective.  I guess we really are all in this together, though maybe not for the usual reasons people say that.

So next time you step outside, put on that mask, set an example, and spread the message far and wide.  Until we have a cure and/or vaccine, and even some time after that, it really is our only hope.

R2 Always Wore a Mask

P.S.: If you want a custom-designed or themed mask, email us and we can discuss it.  I made some of these one-offs because they inject a bit of fun into a grim subject matter, but they’re just too fiddly to mass-produce.  I’m still trying to figure out how to do a Dalek-themed one.

NOTE: As always, please remember that correct use is everything when it comes to face masks; improper care and sanitation practices can actually endanger you or others.  The wrong fit can make masks ineffective, or just too uncomfortable to wear.  Ditto for the wrong style for your facial anatomy.  (Read more about proper fit and mask styles for your face here). 

Care and Feeding of Your Fantastic Beasts…er, Masks

The proper way to put on, wear, remove, and tolerate your face masks

By Kitty

UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written.  Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete.  Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.

Most of the world now agrees that face masks are a Good Thing, but like many good things, they can do more harm than good if used the wrong way.   

Masks aren’t magic talismans that automatically protect people who wear them; they’re a tool for a particular job.  And like all important life tools (hand sanitizer, hand weights, hand blenders, condoms, etc.), you need to learn to use them properly if you want them to do their job. 

I’ve seen all the mistakes mentioned below more times than I can count, where people end up turning masks into actual health hazards.  So here is a succinct summary of how to safely use face masks to protect yourself and others. 

NOTE: I’ve written a slew of blogs concerning face masks in the last couple of months (covering assorted mask styles, fitting different faces, cultural attitudes toward mask wearing, even Harry Potter-inspired masks), so I won’t repeat huge tracts of the same info here.  If you want more detailed discussion, you can read those, and/or the FAQs on the website.

Pick the right fit for your face shape. 

If your masks doesn’t fit you correctly, you’ll be touching and adjusting it constantly.  That’s the biggest safety no-no!  Also, big gaps severely reduce a mask’s effectiveness.  If you’re not sure what constitutes “right fit,” get details here.  Just know that as with shirts and shoes, one size does NOT fit all. 

For instance, you do NOT want your mask to fit like this:

Bad Mask Fit – Huge Gaps

Some people (like Kitty) love contoured masks and others (like Felix) can’t stand them.  On the other hand, Kitty thinks pleated masks are awful and Felix thinks they’re the bee’s knees, which I’m told is a good thing. 

Pick the right style for you.

It may be down to your breathing, nose shape, or just personal preference, but make sure you get the one that feels comfortable for you, because you should NEVER be touching or pulling down your mask during wear.  If you want to figure out which of the two main mask styles suits you best, you can find out more.

Don’t touch your mask

That’s right, no touchy.  Once you’ve been out in public, you should consider the outside of your mask a contaminated surface like any other.  If you must adjust the mask, try to do it by the straps or elastic, and do NOT touch the face area.  If you absolutely must do it, wash your hands thoroughly before, then again after.

Obviously, this is only doable if your mask is reasonably comfortable and fits well.  So keep trying until you find the one for you, and adjust the fit if necessary.  Any mask you need to touch a lot is a bad mask (for you, at least).  Speaking of which….

Don’t be afraid to alter the fit

Yes, I’m repeating myself, but the biggest problem with face masks is that some people keep touching their faces because the fit is off or uncomfortable in some way.  If you can’t more or less forget about the mask for long period of time, look into altering the fit so it feels better for you. 

You can lengthen the elastics to reduce tightness or digging-in, or tighten them to help with slippage.  Try a different style or fabric if your mask is impeding your breathing, catching on your beard, or clouding up your glasses (some people find that a wire nose-piece like the ones in an accordion mask helps with this).

Put on and take off masks with clean hands only. 

Seriously.  Wash your hands before putting on your mask, before taking it off, and even after taking it off.  Once your mask has been worn, it’s safest to treat it as a contaminated object.  If you keep removing and replacing your mask with dirty hands, you’re potentially introducing pathogens to your face, which rather defeats the purpose.

Launder your mask between each and every wearing.

Technically, you should put your mask in the laundry every single time you take it off your face, even if you go through three or four a day.  If that’s not feasible, at least remember to only handle the mask with clean hands each time, and put it directly into the washer when you’re done for the day. 

It’s perfectly fine to just wash your mask as part of your regular wash and dry cycle.  You don’t need to bleach or boil it; in fact, boiling is possibly less effective than just washing with soap and water.  Unless you do laundry every day, this means you do need more than one mask for each family member.  If you have cold-like symptoms, you may need lots more.

Have a spare mask/s and change it if it gets wet or soiled.

If you do have any cold-like symptoms, or hay fever for that matter, you may be a bit drippy or sneezy.  If your mask becomes damp, you should change it for a clean, dry one immediately.  I sound like a broken record, but do remember to only do this with freshly washed, clean hands!

Remove your mask by the straps or elastics, not by the fabric part.

It might seem like common sense, but don’t touch the part that goes over your nose or mouth.

Wear masks the right way up.

With contoured masks, “up” is side with the sharper peak in the middle (for going over the bridge of your nose).  But honestly, if it feels more comfy upside down, you do you, and no harm done.

Right Side Up – Note the Curvature from Rear Ties up Over the Nose

With pleated Accordion-style masks, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way up. The fold of the pleats should always point downward, so they do not create a pocket that potentially collects particles. The following show a mask the wrong way up (and a pair of scissors acting as a large “particle”):

Wrong Side Up – Catches Crumbs

Here’s the same mask right side up:

Right Side Up

Consider special masks for special needs.

For example, if you have a largish beard or abrasive stubble, the pleats of an Accordion mask would give you better coverage than a contoured style.

If you wear glasses, a wire nose-piece (which you can form over the bridge of your nose) may create a better seal and prevent your mask from steaming up your lenses.

If you suffer from some kind of breathing disorder, you obviously need to exercise caution with masks, and must keep a close eye on yourself.  Anything with a heavy filter is right out for you.  You could request an extra-breathable fabric and lining material by emailing us directly; more breathable is NOT the same thing as more permeable to particles!  Also, a pleated style that keeps the lining away from your nostrils may work best (you can read more about how this works).

If you have some special need/s that makes it hard to find a masks that works for you, email us, and maybe we can help.

Be extra-careful if you want to put face masks on dependents.

If you want to put a mask on people other than yourself (such as a child or elderly person with advanced dementia), be very sure that they understand how masks work and how to wear them safely.  If they can’t be made to understand all of the above points, mask-wearing might not be for them. 

And of course, you need to be certain that you can trust them to communicate to you if they run into any kind of breathing or other difficulties, and that they’re old enough and competent enough that choking is not a danger.  If you’re in any doubt, always consult a health care professional.

Stay safe and well-informed, and remember that your mask is a service to your community during the apocalypse.