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Cloth Mask Policy White Paper

As schools and universities formulate re-opening plans, in some cases, administrators have been planning to simply tell teachers and students to “wear any cloth face covering or face mask,” unfortunately, this overly simplistic policy will lead to unintended negative consequences and safety risks. As shown in recent research, not all mask designs are effective and some masks are dangerously ineffective. We hope this summary helps you and your team formulate the best possible cloth mask strategy for your community.

Background, Insights and Recommendations

  1. Not all cloth masks are equally effective, and some designs are ineffective at stopping droplets
    1. On June 30th, an important study published by Florida Atlantic University researchers showed that some common face masks allow a surprisingly high concentration of droplets to escape. As seen on CNN, the researchers emulated coughs and measured droplet plumes propagating thru the air. The study showed several common mask designs were very ineffective and a fitted cotton mask design minimized droplet propagation and leakage.
    2. In April, a Wake Forest study highlighted that tightly woven cotton (180 thread count) and cotton flannel are very effective fabrics to filter particles and droplets. Studies have highlighted that lightweight cotton masks, masks made using cotton knit fabric, and polyester fleece fabrics are less effective. As stated, “We do not want people to think that any piece of cloth is good enough,” summarized Dr. Scott Segal, M.D.
    3. Many cloth masks on the market are imported from Asia with a focus on low price point and minimal regard for effective droplet filtration and good fit. Many cloth masks are made using simple rectangular designs and one-size-fits-most.
    4. Teachers will not want to be in a classroom for 4-7 hours with students wearing a sub-par, poorly fitting mask that is sliding off the nose of the person wearing the mask.
    5. Cloth mask with valves are designed to allow exhaled air to be released without any filtering, which is totally counter-strategic when trying to stop the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19, and most people buying and wearing these masks, are totally unaware that wearing a mask with a valve is unsafe. 
    6. We have all observed adults and children wearing poorly-fitting and low-quality masks. We are very aware that many students will show up with sub-par masks, if the school does not clearly define requirements or provide approved masks to all teachers, staff and students. 
    7. As the person setting mask policies for your schools and community, it is important to use current research and information to set clear policies to keep your community safe. 

  2. If the school district simply states that “all teachers and students must wear a cloth face covering to school,” then:
    1. A significant percentage of masks worn by teachers and students will be ineffective and will not stop or filter droplets, which will put people at risk and increase likelihood of outbreak. Some masks will have valves and will expose students and teachers to unfiltered droplets.
    2. Teachers and students who see others wearing ineffective masks will be uncomfortable and will be compelled to complain or confront the person wearing such mask
    3. Teacher-to-teacher confrontation will create negative social dynamics and undue tension 
    4. Teacher-to-student confrontation will make parents and children unhappy and will be disruptive to the school community. 
    5. If a teacher tells a student that his or her mask is not “good enough,” the child will feel bad and the negative feelings may lead to other issues

  3. Teachers and parents have minimal expertise related to cloth mask selection and cloth mask selection is critical to ensure your school community is safe
    1. Many parents, teachers, and students will buy the least expensive mask possible to minimize their out-of-pocket expense.
    2. Parents may allow children to select masks that are cute, instead masks that will be effective and appropriate. 
    3. Parents will be upset if they spend money on masks to comply with the school requirement, and then they are told that their masks are not “good enough.”

  4. Cloth Masks hygiene is important 
    1. Students and teachers need a clean mask everyday.
    2. CDC recommends to wash your reusable cloth mask after wearing, daily use.
    3. Experts suggest a minimum of 5 masks per person to align with typical family laundry routines.

  5. Implement a cloth mask policy where the school district or university requires and/or supplies effective, well-designed cloth masks 
    1. Develop a list of well-designed cloth masks that minimize leakage and comply with best practices.
      1. 2-layer or 3-layers of woven 100% cotton – flannel or tightly woven cotton
      2. Woven cotton fabric to maximize filtration effectiveness and breathability
      3. Contoured and fitted design to minimize droplet plume leakage and ensure secure fit around nose, jaw and chin
      4. Comfortable for all day wearing with ear loop elastic to maintain snug, secure fit
      5. Solid colors or simple prints to minimize distraction risk
      6. Mask should not slide off nose when talking and not require frequent adjustments
      7. Mask should not include a valve to release unfiltered exhaled air
    2. Publish a list of approved masks, Bulk Purchase and resell, or Bulk Purchase and distribute
      1. Publish the list of selected cloth masks and tell each teacher and student family that they must purchase masks from the list or masks that are substantially similar
      2. Bulk purchase effective cloth masks, and then sell masks at special price to families, where families in-need are given masks at no cost 
      3. Allocate funds and purchase 5 cloth masks for each teacher and student and distributes masks prior to starting the school year
    3. Standardize cloth masks with reasonable parameters to
      1. Mitigate risk such as students from low-income families are made to feel “lesser” because of their mask
      2. Reduce risk of cloth mask politics in your schools and reduce the risk of unproductive social dynamics
      3. Eliminate risk related to masks with high droplet leakage that release COVID-19 droplets into the air
    4. You can increase likelihood of success and mitigate a multitude of risks for approximately $20 per teacher and per student.

  6. Cloth masks should not be allowed to create distractions and counter-productive social dynamics
    1. Masks can be a source of distraction and highlight economic differences in the classroom.
    2. If the room is full of students wearing Sponge Bob, Spiderman, evil faces, sparkles, and so on…how will the teacher feel looking at all the crazy designs? This scenario would also lead to distraction for children. 
    3. Affluent students wearing designer masks will make poor students wearing home-made masks or over-used disposable masks feel badly. 
    4. By publishing a list of approved masks with approved colors and designs, you will mitigate many risks related to safety and negative social dynamics.

  7. As you evaluate suppliers, please consider SwaddleDesigns masks are designed by Lynette Damir, RN
    1. SwaddleDesigns masks are multi-layer woven cotton fabric masks. Comfortable, secure, fitted designs that minimize droplet leakage.
    2. We offer three sizes of masks, because fit is important to ensure comfort and minimize risk of droplet leakage. We offer Large, Medium and Child sizes.
    3. We offer 2-layer and 3-layer woven cotton masks. Double-napped cotton flannel and 180 thread count cotton chambray. Woven cotton is recommended in published studies.
    4. SwaddleDesigns 2-layer cotton masks for adults include a bonus headband elastic to secure the mask when talking.  SwaddleDesigns 3-layer cotton masks include a bendable nose piece with a fitted nose and chin gusset design to ensure a SecureFit.  
    5. Many consumers have told us that our masks are “the most comfortable” and the “best fitting masks” that they have found. We have been told that our kids masks are the best, and many children strongly prefer our masks over all other options.
    6. We offer solid colors and simple prints to minimize the risk of distraction in the classroom.
    7. We offer made in USA and imported options. We offer special pricing for schools.
    8. We offer personalization to add your school logo.
    9. We have a good supply of masks and production capacity, but our capacity is not unlimited.

We hope this summary helps you formulate your strategy. By investing in your cloth mask program, you will show that you care about the safety of your community, and you will mitigate a multitude of risks.


If you would like to discuss your requirements, your questions, or discuss a framework for collaboration, we would be happy to schedule a call. Please send an email to Sales@SwaddleDesigns.com. If you would like to learn more, please visit the SwaddleDesigns Masks for Schools page on our web site.