In the earliest days of the pandemic, people were asked to preserve face masks for essential healthcare workers who couldn’t avoid coming into contact with the virus. Once the supply system stabilized, the health departments began to ask the general public to practice mask-wearing. Today, people have multiple options for preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and understanding which faces masks are the most effective makes it easier to spend time out in public.

Are All Face Coverings Effective?
Naturally, hospital-grade N-95 masks are the most effective at filtering out germ particles that could include the coronavirus. However, these are still hard to find, and the average person doesn’t need this level of protection to visit the grocery store. Ideally, a face covering should include several layers of fabric to serve as a filter. It should also fit snugly against the face and allow for as little air as possible to escape from the sides.

Which Face Masks Work Best?
There have been multiple tests run to identify which masks work best, and people can use the results as guidance. Outside of hospital-grade masks, cloth face coverings made from two to three layers of fabric are the best for reducing the spread of germs. Neck gaiters have had mixed results in testing. While they help filter particles, they can also spread more germs due to them being looser around the face. A triangle bandana tied around the face is the least effective since it allows air to escape from the fabric’s bottom.

How Should You Wear a Face Mask?
One of the biggest questions people have about face masks is how they should wear them to prevent as much germ transfer as possible. Face masks should always be worn over both the nose and the mouth. A mask with a bendable nose piece at the top can also help prevent air from escaping, which improves the experience of mask-wearing for people who wear glasses. Currently, there are some further questions about whether double-masking is effective. While you can wear two masks to help stay safer, it isn’t always necessary, provided that you wear your mask correctly and follow the other best practices for social distancing.

Even with vaccines, it still appears that wearing face masks will continue to be a mainline of defense against COVID-19 well into the future. Choosing the best ones helps people do their part to protect themselves and others when out in public. People who like their masks are also more likely to wear them regularly and correctly, making the practice even more effective.