A reusable cloth face mask is great item to have handy, especially during the winter months. With all the disposable masks that have made their way into the oceans, using a cloth mask is an eco-friendly way to help cut down on the spread of respiratory illnesses. Below, we share our top picks.
Table of Contents
- Rawganique Vivaldi Face Mask
- Duty Apparel
- Etee Organic Cotton Face Masks
- Christy Dawn – The Sustainable Masks for Kids
- Avocado GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Face Masks
- Aisle (formerly LunaPads) Cloth Face Masks
- Onzie Mindful Masks
- Travleisure Adjustable Reusable Cotton Face Masks
- Top Tips for Using Face Masks
Our top pick
Masks have become a fact of life over the two years, and for good reason. Wearing a face mask helps reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses, which is why the CDC and most health authorities recommend “masking up” in public settings. And even with millions of Americans vaccinated, many locales are returning to mask mandates as the Omicron proves to be pesky and resurgent.
This seems like a good common sense approach. A well-fitted mask can help keep droplets in; that way if we’re sick (even if we don’t know it), there’s less chance we inadvertently infect others. What a cloth mask won’t do is act as personal protective equipment (PPE), so don’t let your mask give you a false sense of safety. Maintain physical distance as much as possible and wash your hands as recommended.
With that said, we’ve done some investigating and determined the best reusable face masks that you can buy.
Buying a reusable face mask is crucially important in light of the shocking rise in masks making their way into our oceans. According to Oceans Asia, a staggering 1.5 billion face masks made their way into our treasured ocean environments in 2020. This has to stop.
You can read about our unique research process here.
Rawganique Vivaldi Face Mask
Highlights: Excellent organic cotton face masks with a pocket for an extra filter, but a little pricier than other options.
$29.95 for 1 mask
Rawganique offer a wide range of face masks, but the Vivaldi model (View Price on Rawganique) appears to be the best in terms of construction and protection. This two-layer 100% organic cotton face mask has a filter pocket for you to add an extra layer of protection. Rawganique offer such layers, or you can make your own from a coffee filter, HEPA filter, or vacuum bag.
The cotton is tightly knitted jersey, which is breathable and soft. Rawganique designed these masks for frontline workers to provide an extra layer of protection underneath N95 masks and help avoid skin irritation.
You can add in a pipe-cleaner-like nose clip to create a better seal or use the pantyhose method. These masks are elastic-free and are tied high on the head and at the back of the head. They’re a great choice for allergy sufferers and for household tasks like cleaning and dusting, as well as for doing the grocery store run or other chores out in public.
Masks are latex-free, bleach-free, chemical dye-free, eco-friendly, and non-toxic, and are packaged new inside biodegradable cellophane. To clean your mask, Rawganique suggest submerging the mask in already boiling water for 30 seconds. Hang to dry and iron as needed.
Masks are available unbleached and dye-free or in sage or indigo colors, dyed with biodegradable, low-impact eco-dye. They are sweatshop-free, vegan-friendly, and chemical-free, are made at a Rawganique Atelier in Europe and you can pick one up for $29.95.
Highlights: Eco-friendly, hemp and organic cotton reusable face mask made without azo dyes and available in four sizes.
$12.95 for 1 mask
Made in Canada and designed to fit the contours of the face, Duty Apparel’s reusable organic face masks are my top choice. These masks have an adjustable nose piece, so they fit snugly without the gaps that arise with most other fabric masks. They’re made with unbleached and undyed hemp and organic cotton, without the use of toxic azo dyes, and you can throw them in with your regular laundry.
Thanks to the hemp, these masks are naturally somewhat antimicrobial and are also likely to be a bit better for allergy sufferers as they won’t harbor dust mites. Hemp is also harder wearing than cotton, so these mixed fiber masks may last a bit longer than simple cotton masks.
On Duty offer face masks in XXS, XS, S, and M sizes and offer a handy sizing chart so you can get the right fit for the whole family.
All in all, On Duty Organic Hemp and Cotton Face Masks are a great deal for excellent protection, and they’re currently in stock too!
Etee Organic Cotton Face Masks
Highlights: Organic cotton, double-layered masks with filter pocket for a great price plus donation!
2 masks (plus 2 donated) for $30; 4 masks (plus 4 donated) for $54
Etee’s 100% organic cotton face masks are handmade in Canada, are reusable and washable, and are double-layered with a filter pocket. They have elastic ear loops and come in a variety of colors. For every mask you buy, Etee donates a mask to a local hospital for use by visitors and discharged patients.
Etee are a fairly new company set up to provide alternatives to plastic household items. I’ve been using their vegan-friendly reusable sandwich wraps and food wrap, as well as their dish soap for more than a year and think they’re fantastic, so it’s great to see them stepping in to make masks too.
Christy Dawn – The Sustainable Masks for Kids
Highlights: Cotton face masks made with leftover fabric or new organic cotton, for kids and adults, made by a sustainable clothing company.
$14 for 3 masks
Cute, simple, and inexpensive, Christy Dawn’s The Sustainable Masks are a great option for kids (and adults!). For every pack of five masks you buy, the company donates five masks to those in need.
These reusable cotton masks are suitable for children over the age of two, are hand washable (wash before first use), have elastic ear loops, and are made using two layers of ‘deadstock’ and new organic cotton fabric. Deadstock is cotton fabric leftover from the company’s production of other clothing items at their factories in LA and India.
Masks are currently shipping in 1-3 weeks, with priority given to mask-only orders. They also offer adult face masks in the same floral prints as well as plaid and solids for the same price ($30 for 5, plus 5 donated), and in linen ($50 for 5, plus 5 donated).
Avocado GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Face Masks
Highlights: Certified organic cotton face masks from a great company, but a little fussy to tie.
$23 for 4 adult masks; $36 for a family pack of 8 masks
Avocado are one of our top picks for mattresses and pillows, so it’s nice to see them step up to provide face masks (initially as a non-profit, at cost, exercise!) (View Price on Avocado). They’re made with two 7-ounce layers of organic cotton canvas, which provides protection while maintaining airflow and breathability. The cotton canvas is OEKO-TEX 100 certified and the masks are tied with two simple organic cotton ties.
The masks are durable, reusable, and washable. No elastics or plastics, and they’re biodegradable. A standard machine wash can clean and disinfect most masks. Tumble dry on low, or air dry. The masks, made with natural fibers, may shrink a little with washing.
The downside? These masks look a tad fussy and difficult to put on and take off, which could increase your risk of infection. If you can master the ties, though, Avocado Organic Cotton Face Masks are a great choice at a fair price.
Pick up a family pack of 8 masks (4 adult, 4 kids) for $36 or a 4 pack of adult masks for $23. Production time is 10-15 days, plus 1-4 days for shipping, and you’re limited to one pack per household.
Impressively, Avocado have already made and distributed almost a quarter or a million masks and are currently making 10,000-15,000 reusable masks per day in their LA factory, including supplying the medical system with non-medical masks. Avocado are a Climate Neutral Certified business, with Clean Energy Partner Certification from Arcadia Power® (100% of their energy is sourced from wind and solar).
Aisle (formerly LunaPads) Cloth Face Masks
Highlights: Reusable mostly cotton face masks from a fantastic B-Corp, made at cost with a generous Buy-one-Give-one donation approach.
Aisle started a Gofundme project very early on in the pandemic, focused on manufacturing non-medical cloth face masks to donate to vulnerable members of the Vancouver community living in the Downtown Eastside of the city. The demand was so great that the company (a B-Corp!) decided to start selling them via their website as well.
These masks are priced at-cost, in a “Buy One, Give One” model. So, for every mask you purchase, Aisle donates a mask to someone living and/or working in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. They do not make a profit on these masks.
The washable and reusable face masks are available in many colors, including: Flower, Magenta, Royal, Orange, and a neutral Pearl color. The outer layer for all masks except for Pearl is made with 100% cotton. The outer layer for Pearl is 97% organic cotton and 3% spandex. The inner layer for all masks is made with 97% organic cotton and 3% spandex and the ties are 100% polyester.
Aisle, formerly LunaPads, are consistently one of my favorite companies at LeafScore, making eco-friendly menstrual management products that rock.
Onzie Mindful Masks
Highlights: Made in LA from upcycled yoga fabric in fun prints, but not necessarily non-toxic.
$24 for 2
Los Angeles company Onzie is making Mindful Masks from upcycled fabric used in their yoga clothing. The masks have a Full Flex Spandex outer later, elastic straps, and an unidentified inner layer fabric described as ‘high performance’. All that spandex makes for a snug fit, decent breathability, some fun prints, and quick-drying. As a synthetic material, though, I wouldn’t recommend these for general use or for anyone with chemical sensitivities.
The company has donated thousands of masks to hospitals in LA and proceeds from the sale of masks is also being donated to healthcare workers across the US through the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. They are an approved manufacturer involved in LA Protects, an initiative created to help the LA Mayor’s goal of producing 5 million non-medical masks.
A pack of 2 Mindful Masks (in assorted prints/colors) costs $24 and they currently promise shipping within 5 days, making them one of the most available masks around. Wash before use, using cold water, and hang to dry in the sun.
Travleisure Adjustable Reusable Cotton Face Masks
Highlights: Affordable conventional cotton masks for adults and kids that are easy to use but may harbor potentially toxic chemicals. A good last resort if everywhere else is sold out!
$10 for 1 mask
At $10 a mask, in adult and child sizes, Travleisure are a decent option for a more conventional looking and fairly inconspicuous reusable face mask made with mostly natural materials. These masks have an elasticated ear loop with band adjuster and look easy to use.
The Travleisure masks are made with conventional cotton and the company makes no mention of eco-friendly dyes, so I’d highly recommend washing them before first use. The elastics may cause irritation with prolonged wear, and conventional cotton is one of the most heavily polluting crops. As such, these masks may be a source of chemicals such as dioxins, pesticides, and azo dyes, affecting both the wearer and workers making them.
Travleisure also offer bamboo masks, but bamboo is an even more problematic textile fiber in terms of toxic chemical inputs, so I’d suggest the cotton option out of the two.
Top Tips for Using Face Masks
A properly fitted face mask will sit snug against your face, is secured with ties or loops behind the ears or back of the head, and includes more than one layer of fabric. Don’t use a filter insert that is too hard to breathe through, though, or that contains fiberglass (such as some furnace filters). While studies show that all masks confer protection, N95 masks offer the greatest protection.
Your face mask should be breathable, easy to put on and take off, and should be washable without getting damaged. Wash your cloth face mask before first use and after each wear, or per the guidance from the manufacturer. Masks with elastic ties will degrade quickly on high heat washes, so are best avoided for reusable masks, or should be handwashed.
No homemade mask is as effective as a commercially made mask, and some may cause breathing difficulties, create moisture build-up, and actually increase your risk of infection by being hard to put on and remove safely.
Consider augmenting your homemade or commercially made mask with a pair of pantyhose. Cut pantyhose (or tights, ideally queen-size) into 10-inch tall sections. Pull this tube of pantyhose material over your head and around your mask. This helps press your mask closer to your face, acting as a pull-on shield, to make your mask fit better and provide greater protection.
Also, if you’ve been growing a quarantine beard, now’s the time to reconsider. Face masks need to fit snugly and facial hair can get in the way of that. So, give your bountiful beard a trim or treat yourself to some eco-friendly, non-toxic shaving products before donning that mask.
Face masks and sensitive skin
If your work means you need to wear a face mask for hours every day, chances are you’ve noticed some skin irritation. Face mask bruising, rashes, blemishes, and soreness are common, especially with disposable face masks made of synthetic material or conventional cotton bleached and dyed with potentially toxic azo dyes.
Wearing a softer, organic cotton or hemp mask underneath a medical mask can help reduce skin irritation. Or, if you’re not a healthcare worker, just switching to a reusable cloth mask can make all the difference.
In addition, masks that secure with elastics can irritate the skin behind your ears, creating sores that increase your risk of infection. If you have to wear a mask for a long time, find one with fabric straps that won’t irritate your skin.
And make sure to wash your reusable mask after every use! Like any fabric, masks can harbor germs and allergens that can irritate skin. The beauty of reusable masks is that you can just throw them in with your regular laundry to maintain a stable supply of clean masks.
The email sent out by GeneFood promoting this post, said: “Studies show that masks can stop the spread of COVID-19 by as much as 75%”
Do you have any references for this?
I believe John was referring to a study brought to attention in the past couple of days, Shannon. From the University of Hong Kong and yet to be published (so I haven’t read it myself and can’t verify!). There are a few details here: https://fightcovid19.hku.hk/hku-hamster-research-shows-masks-effective-in-preventing-covid-19-transmission/
I really wish that there was some effort in the research to attempt to measure effectiveness. I find it amazing that there is no sustainable/ reusable mask that can achieve n95 effectiveness. I realize that certifying and testing n95 masks must be most of their cost…and no one wants to assume liability…but is there really no fabric on this earth that can replicate the filtering characteristics of this paper?
I wish there was more research into this too! Happily, since I first wrote the article earlier this year, there have been a handful of studies looking at the efficacy of different fabrics for cloth face masks.
One study found that:
“Filtration efficiencies of the hybrids (such as cotton-silk, cotton-chiffon, cotton-flannel) was >80% (for particles <300 nm) and >90% (for particles >300 nm). We speculate that the enhanced performance of the hybrids is likely due to the combined effect of mechanical and electrostatic-based filtration. Cotton, the most widely used material for cloth masks performs better at higher weave densities (i.e., thread count) and can make a significant difference in filtration efficiencies.” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32329337/)
Another study, just published, recommended that a cloth mask be:
“made of at least three layers (300-350 threads per inch) [with] a nylon stocking layer over the mask for a better fit. Water-resistant fabrics (polyesters/nylon), blends of fabrics and water-absorbing fabrics (cotton) should be in the outside layer, middle layer/layers and inside layer, respectively.” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32913005/)
It would be great to see more specific studies carried out though, especially given that most people are now heeding the advice to wear masks to protect others.
Thanks for the question,
FYI – it seems that Naturepedic are $29 for 6, rather than $49 🙂
I’ve updated the post to reflect the change in price. Good spot!
Avocado does not ship to Canada, so that’s disappointing. They seem to have the best quality/least toxic material.
Face masks sice 2020s must have accessory. This is not only better for the environment, it also frees up the single-use PPE masks for the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals or patients with certain medical conditions that really need them.