A full year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, we now know a lot more than we used to. Surfaces? Not as scary as we once thought. Social distancing? Back at it again. Sourdough bread? Maybe we’ll leave that one to the bakers. But arguably the most important change from the very beginning of the pandemic has to do with masks.
At first discouraged due to quantity issues, disposable face masks became a crucial tool in preventing transmission, especially in indoor spaces. At some point, we learned that not all masks are created equal.
The makeshift face coverings many of us started out with, such as bandanas, are too loose-fitting and thin to be effective. And while most people have access to reusable, multi-layered fabric masks, it can still be worth stocking up on disposable masks, often called surgical masks — these can be useful, especially in the face of the brand-new Delta variant.
Although those that were vaccinated had a brief stint in a maskless world earlier this year, things are starting to take a turn for the worse again. Folks across the globe are seeing rising COVID-19 cases as of recent and a number of states and countries are suggesting we mask up yet again.
What Type of Face Mask Do You Need?
The guidance on disposable masks varies by type. Here’s a quick summary of the current guidance as per the CDC, with clarifying notes.
N95 Respirators: Despite greater availability, the use of N95s is still discouraged by the CDC for use by the general public. Remember that N95 masks with exhalation valves are also discouraged because they allow respiratory droplets from the wearer to escape through the valve. These masks can also protect the wearer from health risks posed by wildfire smoke.
Disposable face masks: The CDC says these should have multiple layers of non-woven material and a nosepiece to ensure a snug fit. These are often blue, feature pleats and are colloquially called surgical masks or medical masks (though there are certain standards for genuine surgical and medical masks).
KN95 Masks: Typically made in China, KN95s are a user-friendly alternative to N95s. Look for brands that are accepted by the CDC. The CDC says these should be worn by themselves. Counterfeits abound, so be wary.
Cloth face masks: Reusable cloth face masks don’t offer as much protection as surgical masks or N95 masks, but they can be useful when in a business or public space that requires face masks. The best cloth face masks are comfortable to wear for long periods of time and can be worn over disposable face masks and N95 respirators.
The best disposable face masks fit snuggly, have multiple layers and come in large packs so you’ll have plenty to work with after your purchase. If you’re a business reopening your doors, keeping a pack of disposable masks can be great to have on hand for customers who forget to bring their own. On the flip side of that coin, disposable face masks are great to have in the car for those moments when you realize you’ve forgotten your mask after leaving the house. Here are the best disposable masks for staying safe throughout the ongoing pandemic.
Editor’s Note: These links were live and in stock at the time this article was written. We’ll try to update it as much as possible, but due to the nature of the product, these items may sell out quickly.
1. Wecolor Disposable Face Masks
Wecolor’s face masks are the disposable face masks we’re all most common with at this point. They come in that classic surgical blue color, have three layers for greater protection and are as breathable as it gets. They come in 50 and 100-packs and are always at an affordable price.
These green masks from Evolvetogether are a good alternative to the standard light blue masks. They’re triple-layered, featuring a water-resistant outer layer, an absorbent inner layer and a middle layer with a metal nose bridge. They have filtration of >98% BFE and >95% PFE. A portion of the brand’s proceeds go to OneTreePlanted.
3. Powecom KN95 Face Masks
Powecom is one of the approved brands for KN95 masks by the FDA. This pack, sold by Office Depot, comes in a pack of 10. The mask features an adjustable nose clip, and it provides 95% filtration thanks to the four layers of fabric. Plus, these masks easily fold in half, so they can easily be tucked in your pocket or safely stored when not in use.
4. NNPCBT Black Disposable Face Mask
Over the course of the pandemic, a lot of people began ditching the classic blue disposable face mask for other colors. The most popular? Black. By far. Black disposable face masks match with everything you pair them with so you can stay safe on the street while strutting around in style. This 100-pack is made with a three-layer fabric that comes in counts of 50, 100, 500 and 1,000.
5. WeCare Kids Disposable Face Masks
As we approach a new school year, it’s important to ensure you have an adequate supply of masks for children. These masks are designed to fit small faces, and they have fun tie-dye prints that young children can appreciate. Like their full-size counterparts, these kids’ masks have three layers of protection and a nose clip.
6. mystcare Individually Wrapped Disposable Face Masks
If you’re a business owner and need to distribute masks to customers or employees, these masks from mystcare are a great option to get. They’re individually wrapped, so you can hand them out without the recipient feeling uncomfortable about you handling the mask itself. They have three layers and come in a variety of fun colors.
7. ICU Health Carbon Filter Face Mask Insert
An alternative to disposable masks is face mask inserts. Many reusable masks have filter pockets, but what are you supposed to put in them? These ICU Health inserts are a good option. They’re a PM 2.5 carbon filter, and the box includes 30. Unlike disposable masks, these can be used for up to three days, so they’re an economical option.
8. Modenna Blue Disposable Face Mask 50-Pack
This is your standard 50-pack of the classic blue disposable face mask design. These are 3-ply and made with a polypropylene filtration layer for protection. They’re one size fits all and available in 50-mask and 25-mask packs.
9. Just Play 3ply Kids Face Mask
These adorable cartoon-patterned disposable face masks are sized for kids and plenty colorful so little ones will actually want to wear them. Place one in their backpack, lunchbox or back pocket so they won’t forget. These face masks designed for a comfortable fit with lightweight breathability, and the size is adjustable along the top with a flexible metal nose clip. There are 24 in total and are made for ages 2-7.
10. ZIYE Dusty Rose Disposable Face Masks
Now this is a color we can get behind. If you’re trying to strut around in style with your face mask, these disposables in dusty rose will most certainly help. Not only are they fashionable, but they also have a nose clip for an adjustable fit and high elastic ear loops designed to not tug and stay comfortable for longer periods of time.
11. ZTANPS Multicolor Disposable Face Masks
Why pick just one color? This pack of disposable masks from ZTANPS comes with 50 masks total in five color choices — 10 pink masks, 10 purple ones, 10 yellow ones, 10 green ones and 10 blue ones. These masks have three layers to them for effectively blocking droplets and dust. The non-woven design whisks away moisture so you stay comfortable. Each mask also has an adjustable nose bridge that can fit on your face, as well as extra-soft ear loops to eliminate pressure on the ears.
12. WeCare Leopard Disposable Face Mask Individually Wrapped
These disposable face masks from WeCare are perfectly stylish if you’re living on the prowl. These individually wrapped masks are great because you can distribute them cleanly if you’re having a masked gathering or own a small business. They’re made of breathable material and have three layers of material.
13. Medtecs Face Mask Disposable
Two-thousand face masks? It’s going to be a yes from us. These disposable face masks are everything you could possibly expect when purchasing. They come in a variety of fun colors and come in packs up to 2,000.
14. ApePal Rainbow Disposable Face Masks
I love this pop of color in an otherwise pretty sterile design (and situation). Each mask is made of a moisture-proof fabric that’s non-woven and will prevent you from breathing in dust and haze. The fabric is skin-friendly and each mask has adjustable ear loops as well as a nose clip so you’ll be able to find the most comfortable fit possible. This particular mask also comes in other fun colors and patterns so you can dress up and use a disposable face mask at the same time.