Six months ago if I entered a shop wearing a face mask, security would throw me out, thinking I was about to rob them or label me as a prankster. Today wearing reusable face masks or face covering is far from laughable, it’s advisory and even mandatory in some countries. Most people see it as a norm.
A Face Covering or a Face Mask?
Just to make you aware of the difference between a face mask and a face covering. While a face covering is a material you wear that covers the nose and the mouth and can be homemade, a face mask is professionally manufactured, like those used by healthcare professionals.
In this article I will use the term reusable face masks when referring to a face covering.
However, the WHO stressed that the masks are just one of the many tools that can stop the transmission of COVID-19. Don’t forget to regularly wash your hands and keep social distancing amongst other measures.
Wearing a Mask is Important
In the very beginning of the pandemic, there were not many conclusive studies on wearing face masks. But now we know for sure that coughs and sneezes are projected much further than previously thought.
In this video we can see how droplets containing virus can affect people in indoor spaces in both situations when a person caught but also when two people are talking.
It’s clear that there is a high risk of getting infected in a closed space without a face mask. The use of masks can reduce transmission by symptomatic and asymptomatic wearers, especially in situations when social distancing is not possible or predictable, such as shopping or taking public transport.
I want to think that at this stage we agree about the importance of wearing masks.
Types of Face Masks
As masks become necessity a question arises: What types of masks should I wear?
You can purchase a surgical mask or N-95 respirator in pharmacies, or online but many health workers are warning against it. Since the Irish government wants to try and make sure that medical face masks are kept for health care workers, it is not recommended to buy them for personal use.
Lately, we’ve seen widespread popularity of reusable masks. While initial cost might be higher, long term benefits are clear:
- Washable masks can be used multiple times…
- … which reduces the amount of waste.
- Reusable masks are made from natural materials that decompose quickly once you threw it away.
- Lastly, they look much prettier and unique compared to a surgical mask.
Gov.ie recommends that face coverings are made from silk, cotton and linen. You can either buy them or make at home using scraps of fabric, or t-shirts, scarfs etc.
A cloth mask should cover your nose and go under the chin, fit snuggly, include two layers of fabric and not obstruct breathing.
When to Wear
You should wear a face mask or face covering when keeping a 2-metre distance is difficult (for instance, in shops and public transport) or when you visit homes of those who are cocooning.
Since June 29th wearing a face covering is mandatory on public transport in Ireland. To be on top of the latest recommendations, follow updates on the TFI official site.
Cloth masks, however, are not suitable for children under 13 years old, for those who have trouble breathing, people with special needs, and those who need special assistance with removing them.
As the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is very dynamic, guidance for use of face coverings is constantly changing. Please refer to the latest recommendations on gov.ie.
Where to Buy a Reusable Face Mask in Ireland
I put together a brief guide on different reusable masks produced in Ireland. It, of course, does not include all of the available options but hopefully will serve you as a good starting point for buying a washable mask.
From any of the websites listed below, you can order a reusable face mask that will be delivered directly to you. In this way, you are supporting a local business and bringing money back to the Irish economy (if you want to know why buying local is important check out my previous post).
Irish Linen House created a selection of reusable face masks in male and female sizes to create a barrier to help prevent you from touching your face as well as catching droplets from any coughs and sneezes when social distancing is impossible to practice. Made from sustainable Irish linen, these masks have two layers of fabric, they are elasticated and sit snugly on your face. Did you know that linen is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-allergenic? It makes it suitable for sensitive skin.
From Galway, Irish Socksciety likes everything that is quirky and humorous. Like other businesses in Ireland and around the world, they had to become creative not only to sustain their business but also to help protect others from the invisible virus. If you want to cover your face but also giggle in the outside world, check out their innovation – sock-like face masks. For €4 you’ll get a double-layered reusable face mask that will do the talking for you.
In the times of crisis not only do Dimples Dog Bandanas care about four-legged friends but also for their owners. Small, medium or large members of your family: everyone can get a mask that covers their faces and mouths. Sold in packs of five with mixed up male or female patterns you are literally covered for every weekday. Get a 20% discount if you order a Family pack.
Originally from Cork, Coppingers are specialised in sewing uniforms for healthcare, hospitality and even corporate. They know a thing or two about sewing reusable face masks which will make you look extremely well prepared to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Ladies, gents or kids size, the masks should be washed at 60 and up to 90 degrees.
5. We Make Good
When wearing a reusable face mask from We Make Good, not only do you protect people around you but also yourself. You also do a good deed for women from refugee backgrounds who stitch these face masks with lots of attention and care. The money from this project provides them with much-needed income. Additionally, you have an option to donate a mask to a person living in Direct Provision. All masks are made from either cotton or linen, steamed with iron and sewn with extra precautions.
Want to make a statement and wear a badass reusable mask? No problem! Red Squirrel Dublin has a few designs that may interest you. Besides quirky fabric, each mask has a wire incorporated in the bridge of the nose for a snug fit and has a pocket which can hold a filter if you’d like to use one. And if you are a dog owner, you can get a matching bandana for the pet.
For more out of ordinary reusable masks, Olivia in Stitches has come with a clever idea: using fabric with food prints. Macarons, pineapples, doughnuts and watermelons will lift the mood to anyone who sees your mask. She offers two types of masks: with loops and ties to fit your preference.
A very clever idea comes from Edith who tackles both environmental problems and COVID-19 crisis. She offers free masks from her Zero Waste Sewing Etsy shop. Edith makes her reusable masks out of recovered cloth, which was in excellent condition (cut-offs etc.) but nevertheless meant to land in the bin. Masks can be either purchased from Etsy or picked up. You are however welcome to donate anything from 1 euro for the efforts Edith made to put each mask together.
A super comfortable, easy to wear, reusable, locally made Irish Linen Face Masks are made from breathable and anti-allergenic material. The Travel Mask is ideal for travel and public areas use, and wellness. STABLE is currently selling masks in medium and large sizes and selection of plain colours.
10. Fresh Cuts
Dublin based Fresh Cuts apparel company launched into mask production as the necessity for face-covering appeared. Famous for their responsible designs they approached mask production sustainably too. Welcome, environmentally friendly Unisex Face Masks, created from cotton and hemp! Don’t forget to regularly wash them in 60-degree water with detergent and you are good to go out again.
Wearing a Face Mask Correctly
Now as you understand the importance of wearing a cloth mask, let’s look at how to wear it correctly.
To wear a washable face mask:
- Make sure your hands are clean before you put the mask on. If you don’t have access to running water to wash hands, just use antibacterial gel.
- If you use a cloth mask, decide which part of the mask is the top and the front and wear accordingly.
- When you take your mask off, put it in a separate bag.
- Once at home, put your mask at the entrance to prevent any bacteria from entering your home.
- Upon arriving home put your mask immediately inside the washing machine. Wash daily in hot water over 60 degrees with detergent.
- If you use a single-use mask, bin it upon coming home or in an outside bin.
- Wash your hands after use.
Lastly, I would like to emphasise once again that face covering is only as good as following all other measures and respecting each other. Keeping – when possible – safe distance, washing your hands, following coughing and sneezing etiquette is critical for you to stay healthy and protect our community.
Yesterday I installed the newly launched COVID Tracker App and can strongly recommend for you to do the same. It is a brilliant free app that will help us to protect each other and slow the spread of coronavirus in Ireland.