Vesta Living (organic cotton, with optional filter)
COVID-19 has resulted in billions being told to wear face masks, to protect others and ourselves. Of course medical staff and others have to use disposable face masks, and inventors have already created compostable cellulose versions. But for the rest of us, we can do our bit for both people and planet, by choosing a reusable face mask. So how are they used, and where are they found?
Some are now calling disposable face masks ‘the new plastic bottle’ as millions are being used, with shops not really selling many reusable ones. Conservationists in France are already finding them along the coast, ‘floating like jellyfish’ (meaning they are likely to be eaten by turtles, jelly fish being the favourite foods – another reason not to release balloons into the sky, as they also look like jellyfish to marine creatures). So here are some reusable choices (also see the post on the best natural hand sanitisers).
How to Wear a Face Mask
The government says children under 3 or anyone who is immunocompromised should not be wearing face masks. The masks below are not surgical masks, nor N95 respirators. But for everyday use, wash your hands before putting on the mask, covering your nose and mouth and securing under the chin, ensuring it’s comfy and you can breathe easily. You should still maintain social distancing and self-isolate if you have symptoms.
When you return home, untie the strings and just holding the loops, fold the corners and wash in the machine using biodegradable laundry powder (no fabric conditioner, as it could reduce absorbency). If your face mask is not made from organic cotton or hemp (say nylon) wash with a GuppyFriend (a bag that collects plastic fibres to stop them going into the sea). It’s a little invention you can use to wash all synthetic fibres: just peel them off when the bag is full and bin safely.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth while removing, and wash hands immediately after handling the mask. We don’t yet know enough about Coronavirus to know if they stop infection completely, but they do help stop respiratory droplets from travelling through the air. Dry the mask ideally in sunlight, and ensure it’s fully dry, before wearing again. For this reason, you may wish to buy two or more, for ease of use.
If you have no choice but to wear a disposable mask, then try not to drop it (for instance, keep it in your glovebox in the car if the window’s open, so it doesn’t fly outside in a gust of wind). Dispose of it in general household waste, as soon as it’s damp, then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. If just 1% of the disposable masks are left in nature, this would create 40 thousand kilos of plastic waste.
- WEARTH London sells a wide range of reusable face masks, depending on needs. They are made with organic cotton or bamboo. Some have wire or elastic for comfort (so again, make sure these are properly recycled or disposed of) and others are from fabric off-cuts. Available in many nice designs.
- Maask (Brighton, above) is leading the way in creating one of England’s most sustainable face masks. Made from recycled ocean plastic, these can be reused and for each sale, they donate 2 medical grade PPE face masks to front line workers in the UK. In child or adult sizes, it has an internal pocket which fits their disposable protection filter (it does have a small plastic bag, used to keep the mask sterile, so recycle after use in supermarket bag recycling bins). Wash before use, and swap filters after 69 hours or use or after 1 month. Wash with a GuppyFriend (to stop plastic fibres reaching the sea, from your washing machine).
Kohr Bamboo Face Mask is handmade in the UK using responsibly-sourced bamboo, organic cotton, hemp and biodegradable. In 1 size, available in off-white or classic black.
- Zola Armour Organic Cotton Face Masks are designed to meet government guidelines for entering shops and are free from elastic, tie with the organic cotton for a universal fit, in 4 shades, made to order in Warwickshire. Wash after every use. Not a replacement for medical-grade PPE or workplace Respiratory Protective Equipment.
- The Natural Dyer takes end-of-roll fabrics then dyes them with foraged plants. Patterns include denim and gingham.
- Clean U Reusable Face Masks are made from organic cotton and offcuts, in a selection of florals, ditsy prints and stripes. There are also children’s face masks. Not for young children
- Rosana Expósito (Scotland) makes fabric masks from offcuts of clothing orders, in a mix of linen and cotton, which tie each side and are fully adjustable. In 3 colours (burnt orange, mustard or cream), they are machine-washable at high temperatures before packing with gloves, and all profits go to Glasgow Night Shelter.
- Frugi Face Masks are in bright fun colourful designs and made from recycled polyester. They are not medical grade but can be used again and again and have adjustable elastic. Made in Scotland for children or adults.