• Annalisa Rivera

The Candle Test

Unless you've had your TV and Internet off for a while, you've likely heard about Bill Nye the science guy and his demonstration on Tik Tok and elsewhere, showing how cloth protection slows down airborne particles from spreading. Given that the current pandemic, as well as your run of the mill coughs and colds are airborne, this is a really useful test to try out!

I figure a measure of protection outbound is also a measure of protection inbound, so I put my own face masks to the test, all of which are dual layer.

I Can Breathe! Mask with Filter

My original face masks are from I Can Breathe! These masks have been a lifesaver during the most challenging times of my chronic illness. They're lacy on the outside and heavily filtered on the inside, with straps you can pull around the ears for a good fit. The candle didn't budge one notch, and when sealed correctly on the face, it takes a lot for smoke and smells to get through. However, in the hottest weather, I personally find moisture can build up, making it feel a bit heavy over time. Right now, tossing limited filters out can be hard to do, so I'm saving these masks for the cooler months.

Oh: and just to address a common comment on masks - yes, you can wear a mask for hours on end and not die - not only do surgeons wear masks daily, but so do many people with a variety of chronic illnesses! What is important to do though is keep your mask very clean, and if it has a filter, do change it as often as you can.

Hand Sewn Washable Mask

Second to test was one of my hand-sewn face masks crafted from extra clean cotton bedsheets (no filter pocket), which in the image above is modeled by a dear friend who created an amazing design on it. I huffed and puffed, and while I was able to get the candle flame to wiggle, I couldn't put it out. So, I'd say a double layer homemade mask works worlds better than an open scarf, single layer fabric, and worlds more protection than nothing at all.

Washable Print Fabric Mask From Redbubble

Recently, art print shops have added face masks, so that you can wear custom art on the go. If you have to wear one, you might as well do it in style! So I decided to pick up a mask from my own Redbubble shop to test out their dual-layer masks. I was super happy to see my Hugo's Dream betta design on such nice smooth fabric, but I wasn't sure if the material would cut the mustard. To my joy, it stopped the flame better than my hand sewn mask, but felt just as light, and a bit smoother. The only note: unlike a homemade mask, the size is general, so for a perfect fit I recommend picking up a silicone ear saver strap. With a comfortable fit and no pressure on the ear, this will be my warm weather mask of choice when I've got to keep a mask on for extended hours, particularly outside.

MyAir Mask with Filter

Lastly in the lightweight contender line up: a filtered face mask from Ellesco, MyAir. The fabric is so light, it's like a pair of opaque nylons! The filters are a must in order to use this mask. Rather than little ear elastics or tie straps, there are openings in the fabric that you twist and stretch over the ears. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy and makes for a custom fit, but it isn't the fastest mask to throw on if you're on the run. That being said, with the filter on, just like the I Can Breathe! mask, the flame didn't wiggle, and its lightweight nature makes it a good pick for warm weather days where you might have a few more concerns about close contact (ex. a mix of outdoors and indoors).

Final Thoughts

I don't have the gear to verify how much bacteria/viruses/fumes are being blocked inside and out, but I'm very thankful that all of the masks provided more protection than nothing or a single fabric covering.

Given that filters are selling out as fast as mask companies can make them, my plan is to save the filters for occasions where they'll do the most good: during extended wear in indoor situations where I'm likely to run into a lot of people. I love that washable face masks don't cause additional waste in the bin just for a single outing, and so that'll be my day to day choice when I don't anticipate running into a lot of folks. Since my homemade mask is sized just right to my face, that'll be a quick toss on mask for the around the block outing (and just opening my door for deliveries), and the art print mask will be for the long day.

I recommend everyone get (or make!) a range of thick and thin masks so that you are prepared for a variety of activities and seasons. I think it's going to be a long road, but we can all do our part to protect others - and hopefully take care of ourselves in the process.

Have you made a fabulous face mask or found a stylish filtered mask you love? Tell me about it!

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