Before a few weeks ago, very few of us outside the medical community ever wore face masks. Sure, we've donned one on occasion for a DIY home project or low air quality day during wildfire season, and we wear face coverings during winter sports. But it's a new habit for the vast majority of us in our everyday lives.
So, of course we all have questions. And now that KEEN has converted our factory to make washable, reusable cloth masks, we want to get to the bottom of those questions and help people feel more comfortable wearing them.
QUESTION: SHOULD CHILDREN BETWEEN 2 AND 5 YEARS OLD WEAR A MASK?
"Jason and I actually had to have a family conversation about this ourselves. Our kids are five and seven, and to date they have not been wearing masks outside of our house. However, as we started going over available data and information, we came to realize that really everyone who is leaving the house and unable to guarantee social distancing should probably get used to wearing a mask. But if you're two and up, and you're healthy and active, then it's probably a good idea to get your children used to it.
"Right now, most people are staying at home. Our kids are staying at home. They don't go to the grocery store. They don't do any errands with us. But they do play outside. And with so many people at home even though we've been feeling that it's relatively safe and we've been able to maintain our distance, the other day we were on the bike path, and we did encounter many other people.
"Wearing masks is going to become part of the mainstream culture as we gradually open up. Getting our children used to masks now is a good idea because everything takes adjustment and transitioning."
Q: ANY ADVICE ON KEEPING EYEGLASSES FROM FOGGING UP WHILE WEARING A MASK?
"That's certainly true. I'm an eyeglass wearer most of the time. Growing up in colder weather, getting glasses to fog whenever your mouth is covered is a continual problem, and when wearing masks in surgery, as well. What you want is to make sure is that your mask has a nice seal over the bridge of the nose and the cheeks so that most of your moisture is directed outward and not up into the glasses. So some of that comes to proper fit of the mask. Now not everybody has the same shape face, and sometimes it can be hard to get that seal. And in surgery what we'll do if we're having fogging problems is just take a strip of tape, ply it across the top of the mask and the bridge of the nose, and that should give you the seal you need so that your breathing through the mask instead of around it."
Q: WHAT MATERIALS/FABRICS ARE EFFECTIVE FOR MAKING HOMEMADE MASKS?
"For our work in the hospitals, there are definite medical-grade masks with very specific materials designed to protect against aerosols and droplets. But what we're talking about today here are everyday masks for the general public. We're really trying to prevent droplets. More of a barrier, when you cough, or speak, or sneeze. You also want it comfortable enough that you're going to be able to wear it. You know if you have something very occlusive and very heavy, and you don't wear it, then it's not going to accomplish the purpose. So the CDC thus far has recommended natural fibers such as cotton, ideally two-ply. So people can make them at home with their old t-shirts and such. The tighter the weave of cotton — I read somewhere that like a thread count of 160 or more provided more protection — the better. The flip side is the tighter the weave, the hotter it is going to be on your face. And the harder it will be to breathe through it. Because, again, the purpose is you really want to be breathing through the middle of the mask. You don't want to be breathing around the outside."
Q: HOW DO YOU KNOW IF A CLOTH MASK IS A GOOD FIT FOR YOUR FACE?
"What you want to do is make sure that that there are no leaks or no space between your cheeks and nose, around your face, and under your chin. And when you breathe, if you take a deep breath in and out, you should feel the air coming through the mask and not leaking around the side. In the hospital, we call that the leak test."
Q: HOW TIGHT SHOULD THE MASK BE?
"You don't want it to be uncomfortable. I would say as snug enough that you don't feel the air leaking around the side if you're taking a deep breath. That you can move your head around and still kind of maintain that seal. If it's snug enough that it's leaving imprints on your face, and it's uncomfortable, and you feel like you have to take it off, then that's probably too tight."
Q: SHOULD WE BE EXERCISING WITH OUR MASKS?
"Everything is changing every day. To be totally candid, we've been exercising outside and biking and doing walks around our neighborhood without wearing masks as a family. But I think that as we learn more, we're coming around and realizing that unless you can guarantee that you're exercising only with your immediate family who you are sure have no potential exposures, then you probably should be wearing a mask to protect not just yourself but the community. Most of us do not live in places with wide-open acreage where we can guarantee a solo run, so I think that the reality is that as things open up, and if we do want to enjoy recreating and enjoy our public spaces, then we have to show that we can be thoughtful about that. And I think that will include wearing masks more consistently moving forward until more is under control and more is understood."
Q: WHO IS PROTECTED BY WEARING A MASK?
"You are to a certain extent protecting yourself from ingesting droplets or aerosols from other people. Probably more effectively you're preventing yourself from contaminating other people."
Q: ARE THERE ANY PREFERRED WAYS TO WASH THE MASKS?
"There are some suggestions that you should use detergent, preferably with some bleach in it. There are a lot of color-safe detergents with bleach as an ingredient to help kill the virus and any other germs or bacteria that may be on the surfaces. The general recommendation is that COVID can't survive higher temperatures...so they do recommend washing any clothes or masks that you think may have come into contact with Coronavirus with your high heat setting and then also to dry it fully."
ADDITIONAL TIPS ON WEARING A MASK
- Don't touch the outside of the mask while wearing it.
- Take masks off from the ear straps.
- Place your used mask directly in the laundry or another receptacle. If you fold up your mask and put it in your pocket or your purse, those areas are now contaminated.
- Clean off your hands after handling your mask. With a 20-second scrub with soap or with disinfectant.
- Masks are like socks — they are easy to get lost in the laundry. One tip is to place them together in a delicates bag when laundering.
- Consider keeping a separate laundry hamper by the door, so you can immediately take off masks and layers that may have been exposed.
- Have a stash of masks per person, so you always have a clean one available as you head out.