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Best Overall: Nxt Stop Adjustable Reusable Face Mask at Nxt Stop
"Nxt Stop specializes in comfortable travel apparel, so their masks are perfect for germ-conscious travelers."
Best Adjustable: Cotopaxi Teca Cotton Face Mask at Cotopaxi
"With ear loops that have adjustable slides, this face mask will bend to most peoples’ features."
Best with Removable Filter: SpringSeason Cloth Face Mask at Amazon
"The removable filter helps refine haze, industrial emissions, and cigarette smoke."
Best Print: DIOP Cloth Facemask at DIOP
"Uses boldly colored and patterned fabric that's triple layered for a snug fit."
Best Striped: Michael Stars Pleated Striped Face Mask at Michael Stars
"These black and white striped face masks feature tie straps that wrap around your head."
"This cotton face covering protects you while also giving back to communities in need."
"Crafted from mulberry silk, this face mask will make you feel luxurious when traveling."
Best Lightweight: Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit at Outdoor Research
"Made of lightweight polyester, this mask is lined with HeiQ V-Block for an extra layer of protection."
Best for Hiking: Page One 12-in-1 Multifunctional Face Mask at Amazon
"Will stay dry even when perspiring on the most difficult trail ascents."
Best for Biking: Under Armour Sportsmask at Under Armour
"Features an open-cell foam layer that makes it difficult for sweat to pass through when cycling."
Around the world, in cosmopolitan areas such as Hong Kong and Tokyo, wearing masks are part of everyday life. The wearers’ reasons vary, from reducing the amount of polluted air they breathe in, to preventing the spread of seasonal colds and flu.
As the world continues to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, many other countries are now following suit, requiring people to wear masks while traveling and in public. The CDC also recommends everyone wear a mask when social distancing is difficult to maintain. This is because a cloth mask that covers the wearer's nose, mouth, and chin, is effective in decreasing the spread of aerosolized viruses, which is created when an infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes, says Dr. Karl Minges, Ph.D. and MPH, the director of the Master of Public Health Program at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut.
Wearing a cloth mask is also more about protecting other people from the wearer’s germs, rather than filtering out incoming germs, says Dr. Martin A. Cohen, principal lecturer in the University of Washington Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, where, as a certified industrial hygienist, he fit tests the best face masks. The mask should fit from the bridge of the nose to below the chin and should form a seal around your face. To find the best fit, Dr. Cohen advises using an adjustable mask. He says to look for one with a piece of metal that can crimp over the bridge of the nose, make sure the side of the mask fits closely to your cheeks, and ensure the mask fits over the bottom of your chin. Masks that allow air to escape, as in respirator-style masks with a filter; bandanas or face shields, which are open on the bottom; and single-layer scarves or balaclavas are not as effective.
“It’s worth stating that comfort is key,” Dr. Minges adds, since the wearers should be able to keep the mask on for multiple hours whenever they are within six feet of other people, are indoors, and are complying with any local laws about wearing face masks.
With all that in mind, here are the best cloth face masks.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Nxt Stop Adjustable Reusable Face Mask
Nxt Stop specializes in comfortable travel apparel, so naturally, their masks are the perfect solution for those who are looking for further protection against germs and other pollutants. This travel face mask offers all the qualities experts recommend: a double layer of cloth, with a metal piece that can be bent over the bridge of the nose to create a seal, plus ear straps that can be tightened down for a close fit. They come in breathable bamboo or cotton fabric and are available in adult and kid sizes.
Because this mask is reusable, proper use and washing is important. Dr. Minges advises washing your hands, picking up the mask by the earpieces to put it on and adjust the fit. Then, when removing the mask, the process should go in reverse, starting with removing the mask from the earpieces. He advises folding the mask onto itself, so the outside portion is touching the other outside portion, and placing it in a plastic bag until it can be washed. After you put the mask in a plastic bag you should wash your hands again.
Best Adjustable: Cotopaxi Teca Cotton Face Mask
With ear-loops that have adjustable slides, this colorful face mask from Cotopaxi will bend to most peoples’ features. The 100-percent cotton fabric adds an additional filtering layer above the recommendations and it's reversible so you have more options for styling. These masks are available in bright colorways including Blue Jay, Agave, and Azalea.
It's also worth noting that Cotopxi will give you a discount if you buy three or five masks at a time. Since reusable face masks can generally only be worn once before washing, buying these in bulk could be helpful, especially if laundering your mask when traveling is difficult.
Best with Removable Filter: SpringSeason Cloth Face Mask
With a removable filter, this mask can help refine haze, industrial emissions, cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust, and other particles. Add on two cotton layers that sandwich the filter insert for a total of five layers of protection. However, shoppers should note that the filter requires an additional layer of maintenance. They must be replaced regularly or taken out and placed in UV light (sunlight) for 24 hours to kill off any viruses that may be trapped in it.
Studies have only proven the filtering effects of N95 and cloth surgical masks, so this filter variety doesn’t necessarily block viruses, and public health experts believe N95s should be reserved for health care providers. Dr. Minges observes masks with removable filters can “fool people into a false sense of security,” so even with a filter in place, he recommends people maintain all their other conscientious behavior, like physical distancing.
Best Print: DIOP Cloth Facemask
Founded by Mapate Diop, a first-generation American, this fashion company’s designs reflect the African diaspora. Inspired by his Nigerian mother, DIOP often uses Ankara (the boldly colored and patterned fabric used throughout West Africa) and these masks are no exception. The eye-catching printed face coverings are triple layered and feature two elastic bands that stretch around the head for a snug fit that's comfortable all day long. They come in 21 colorful patterns including Obudu Blue, Akira, Mud Red, and Okra.
Best Striped: Michael Stars Pleated Striped Face Mask
Contemporary fashion brand Michael Stars are known for their effortless clothing, and their minimalist style is showcased in the brand's black and white striped face masks. An accordion-type design ensures you can fit this mask over your nose and securely under your chin. Unlike other masks where the strap wraps around your ears, these travel face masks have straps that tie around your head to keep them securely in place.
Best Cotton: Hedley & Bennett Wake Up & Fight Mask
Featuring a classic cotton design, this Hedley & Bennett face covering protects you while also giving back to communities in need. With every purchase, you have the option to donate a mask to essential workers. Designed by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, this mask features a double layer of cotton, which is what our experts recommend for the best face mask.
Best Silk: Slip Silk Reusable Face Mask
Crafted from mulberry silk, this face mask from Slip will make you feel luxurious when traveling. Celebrities and beauty experts love this brand because founder Fiona Stewart sources a custom silk material that maximizes shine, thickness, softness, and durability. This adjustable face mask features a cotton lining inside and elastic ear straps that can be knotted for a custom fit. Each cloth mask also comes with ten spare nose wires and two silicone stoppers so you can always get a tight fit, even after multiple uses. It's available in black, pink, and leopard.
Best Lightweight: Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit
Outdoor Research's mask features a breathable fabric that’s soft on the interior but still provides a protective barrier. Made of lightweight polyester, this mask is lined with HeiQ V-Block for an extra layer of antimicrobial protection. Filters are included with your purchase, but the reusable mask can be worn with or without them. Outdoor Research also has a video on their website showing how to insert the filters properly. It can be washed up to 30 times before needing to be replaced and comes with its own storage sack.
Best for Hiking: Page One 12-in-1 Multifunctional Face Mask
This balaclava is a hiker’s best friend, with multiple desirable features, including being windproof, mosquito proof, and offering UV sun protection. Dr. Minges observes that face masks don’t necessarily need to be worn if people are exercising outside of populated areas, like the wilderness. But if you’re hiking in a populated area, you should still don a mask—and perhaps even one with a tighter fit around the face than this balaclava. However, the balaclava style allows some convenience. Wearers can keep it around their necks when away from other hikers and pull it up for a bit of air filtering when closer to others. The polyester is also quick drying, so it will remain dry even when perspiring on the most difficult trail ascents.
Best for Biking: Under Armour Sportsmask
Athletic apparel company Under Armour created this mask with outdoor activities in mind. A structured design helps the mask sit up off the face, ensuring it won’t collapse while breathing hard. The mask features an open-cell foam layer that makes it difficult for moisture and sweat to pass through, but keeps the air flowing. And an antimicrobial treatment on the inner layer keeps the mask fresh—even when cycling around town.
Best for Kids: Vista Print Kids’ Reusable Mask
If you’re going to visit top amusement parks like Walt Disney World or other attractions with your family, your kids will need a mask, too. Keep in mind that experts such as Dr. Minges do not recommend children younger than 2 years old wear masks. Additionally, experts observe that for kids to wear their masks properly, parents and guardians need to be good role models.
These travel face masks from Vista Print come in a variety of patterns, from dinosaurs to hearts, which may make your kiddos help see them as cool accessories that make them look like superheroes rather than another thing to fling off at the first opportunity. Adjustable nose pieces and ear loops help the masks mold to kids’ faces—and keep them on, even while they're playing and running outside.
Best Value: Reformation Cloth Face Coverings
This stylish double-layer cotton mask provides protection at a budget-friendly price. Reformation is known for repurposing vintage clothing and using eco-friendly fabrics, so it’s no surprise this pack of five is made from fabric that's cut off from other garments. A pleated design molds the covering to your face, while two tie straps allow you to keep them secure for long periods of wear. However, shoppers should note that these masks may arrive in different colors than advertised.
What to Look for in Cloth Face Masks
Getting your face mask to fit properly is an important step in protecting you and those around you. The best face masks form a seal around your nose, mouth, and chin. Adjustable face masks that have wire built-in are also helpful for getting a tight fit around your face. Simply crimp the fabric around the bridge of your nose and tie the straps so that the cloth tightly fits around your chin and cheeks.
There are multiple styles of cloth face masks—some have loops or adjustable bungees that go around your ears, while others feature strings that are tied around your head. Both of these types of straps are effective in providing a secure fit, but some people prefer head ties because they find that the loops put too much strain on their ears.
Similar to your favorite pair of travel pants, the best face mask should be comfortable to wear. Since you may need to wear your mask for long periods of time, the mask should be made of a breathable fabric that allows air to flow in so your face doesn't get too hot. We suggest masks made of cotton or polyester.