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Choosing Between Disposable Face Masks and Reusable Fabric Face Masks

These days, anyone interested in buying an antimicrobial face mask for day-to-day protection has two basic options. They can either get a disposable type surgical mask or respirator, or a reusable fabric face mask.

At first glance, it seems that the best option would be to go with a disposable mask. After all, it’s what doctors and other medical personnel wear when they’re in the hospital. It’s also true that disposable masks offer the best possible protection. Given these two facts, why wouldn’t you want to choose disposable masks?

 Wearing a COVID 19 Mask at Beach

The fact is that disposable masks can only offer the best possible protection within a relatively narrow range of situations. To be effective, these masks have to be used in a very specific way and replaced frequently. That so-called benefit could very well be true for a reusable cloth mask if you treated it the same way. 

And while single use masks also tend to be better than most cloth masks at blocking airborne particles, they tend to only be comfortable only for a limited period of time. Unless you have a very specific need and are well-trained in using disposable masks, chances are you wouldn’t be able to reap most of the benefits. For most people, reusable fabric masks are clearly the better choice. Here’s why:

1.) Fabric Masks Are Much More Comfortable

Comfort might not seem like such a big deal at first, especially if you’re mainly concerned about protection. However, an uncomfortable mask is one that you’re bound to spend more time readjusting and fidgeting with. It’s something that you might neglect to wear for a quick errand because you just hate how it feels when you wear it. 

In other words, a comfortable mask is something that’s not just more likely to be put on—it’s also more likely to stay on.


2.) They’re Much More Discreet

When worn outside of a hospital, disposable masks stick out like sore thumbs. When people see someone with a disposable mask outside, they may think the person is sick and possibly contagious, which is not something most of us would like.

Reusable cloth masks, on the other hand, tend to have a more approachable look to them. They even come in a variety of different patterns and designs, and you can always find low-key ones that suit every occasion. Of course, if you want to be noticed or have something a little different, cloth masks come in different fun patterns as well.

3.) They Have a Lower Impact on the Environment

The recent spike in the consumption of disposable masks has already made a serious impact on the environment. An almost incomprehensible 129 billion disposable masks were used globally each month of the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening the entry of enormous quantities of non-biodegradable plastic fibers into the world’s ecosystems.

Already-threatened oceanic life is particularly vulnerable to this type of waste, and there are concerns that face mask disposal is now an even bigger issue than that of plastic bags. Even in cases when most single-use masks are disposed of correctly, it is almost impossible to guarantee that none will make it to our wildlands and oceans, especially when these masks are used by the wider public.

While reusable cloth masks do have their own environmental cost, the fact that they could be used multiple times can effectively reduce the amount of trash that makes it outside waste disposal systems. This makes them the clear choice for anyone who wants to protect the environment while they protect themselves.

4.) More  Medical Masks Can Be Made Available to Healthcare Workers

Sticking with quality reusable masks ensures that the people who do need disposable medical masks can always get enough of them.

As we mentioned earlier, the worldwide consumption of single-use masks during the pandemic was absolutely massive. Despite this, there were and still are shortages of single-use masks for healthcare professionals and other essential workers.

These shortages were not necessarily because there weren’t enough single-use masks being produced. Rather, many of the masks were going to people who didn’t need them, to begin with. This meant healthcare workers were forced to reuse masks and respirators that were only ever designed to be used once.

Disposable medical masks and respirators offer superior protection against droplet-borne pathogens — but with many significant drawbacks. This means that they’re best left to healthcare workers and other professionals who need the comparatively higher level of protection disposable masks provide. 

This isn’t to say that properly constructed fabric masks offer inferior protection. Far from it. You can be sure that those very same healthcare workers that rely on disposable masks also invest in good fabric masks themselves for use off-hours. 

For most people just trying to make their way through their daily routine, fabric masks offer the right mix of protection, comfort, and discretion. All while being better for the environment and our heroes in healthcare as well.

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