The face mask hacks you need to know: From the best materials to how to make them fit

Marie Claire Dorking
·5-min read
From the material to use to how to make them fit better. (Getty Images)
From the material to use to how to make them fit better. (Getty Images)

We all have a part to play in helping to slow the spread of coronavirus and according to the government that includes wearing a face covering on public transport or when attending a hospital.

They also recommend donning a face mask in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible, such as shops.

Therefore there’s no getting round the fact that face masks are fast becoming part of our every day lives.

But mask wearing is a relatively new concept for those of us outside the medical profession, which means we’re still grappling to get used to it.

Thankfully, science and the internet have come to our rescue, by delivering some clever face mask hacks on everything from the best materials to use, to how to get a more secure fit.

Read more: What to do if a loved one refuses to wear a face mask

What material to opt for

There is some scientific evidence that suggests wearing a face covering could help reduce the spread of COVID-19. But not all masks are created equal and with a whole wealth of materials to choose from it can be difficult to know which to opt for.

But new research, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, has shed some light on which materials could offer the best protection.

The study assessed the ability of non-traditional mask materials to protect a person from infection after 30 seconds and after 20 minutes of exposure in a highly contaminated environment.

Unsurprisingly, the findings revealed that medical grade N99 masks were the best options in terms of blocking the virus, but as lead author Amanda Wilson, from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, points out “they can be hard to come by, and there are ethical considerations such as leaving those available for medical professionals.”

The next best options, according to the research, are surgical masks and, perhaps surprisingly, vacuum cleaner filters, which can be inserted into filter pockets in cloth masks.

Vacuum filters reduced infection risk by 83% for a 30-second exposure and 58% for a 20-minute exposure.

Of the other nontraditional materials evaluated by the researchers, tea towels, cotton-blend fabrics and antimicrobial pillowcases were the next best for protection.

Read more: UK's first face mask vending machines launch

Scarves, which reduced infection risk by 44% after 30 seconds and 24% after 20 minutes, and cotton T-shirts are only slightly better than wearing no mask at all, researchers found.

“The denser the fibres of a material, the better it is at filtering,” Wilson explains. “That’s why higher thread counts lead to higher efficacy. There’s just more to block the virus.

“But some masks (such as those made from silk) also have electrostatic properties, which can attract smaller particles and keep them from passing through the mask as well.”

As well as the type of material used, study authors also said it’s important for a mask to have a good seal that pinches at nose.

And Wilson also noted that people shouldn’t wear a mask beneath their nose or tuck it under their chin when not in use.

Read more: How to look after your skin when wearing a face mask

Loose fitting face masks aren't as effective. (Getty Images)
Loose fitting face masks aren't as effective. (Getty Images)

How to adjust a mask to fit

As the study authors above point out, wearing an ill fitting mask isn’t much better than wearing no mask at all. That’s because a loose fitting mask can potentially allow infected particles to get to your nose and mouth.

Thankfully, dentist Olivia Cuid, has shared a hack for helping to ensure masks fit better and it’s totally genius.

Even though Cuid’s trick is for the surgical masks she wears, it can totally work for cloth face masks, too.

Cuid shared the hack in a TikTok and it’s already clocked up over 400K likes.

With a surgical-style mask, “the sides of your face are left very exposed to the outside,” Cuid points out.

So, she recommends this simple trick:

  • Fold your mask in half.

  • Tie a knot with the ear loops on each side as close as possible to the mask.

  • Open up your mask.

  • There will be a little opening on the sides next to the ear loop, so tuck that in underneath the ear loops on each side.

  • Wear your (better-fitting) mask.

Read more: How to help children get used to wearing a face mask or covering

How to stop it rubbing behind your ears

While face masks are a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the virus (or other germs), there’s no denying they can be incredibly uncomfortable to wear, especially for long periods of time.

To solve the problem, a hair stylist has shared a simple hack which helps to stop your mask from rubbing on the backs of your ears.

Olivia Smalley, who goes by the name the ‘Queen of Hair Hacks’ on Instagram, has posted an easy trick which requires nothing more than a hair clip.

Read more: Jennifer Aniston shares face covering selfie urging fans to ‘wear a damn mask’

In the explanatory video clip, someone can be seen clipping back the elastic on her face mask with a stylish pearl hair clip to take the elastic strain off the ears.

“Mask Hack. Ears hurt? Grab a clip to hold back mask. And not to mention it looks so cute,” she wrote in the accompanying caption.

Unsurprisingly, people have been impressed by the simple yet effective mask-wearing hack.

“Functional and Cuteeeee. Thank you for sharing,” one user wrote.

“That is so simple and so genius! I wear glasses and the combo kills my ears! Thank you for this fashionable yet comfortable solution.”