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How Fabric Face Masks are Made

With COVID-19 impacting the entire globe, face masks have become an important line of protection. They shield your face, so you don’t breathe in droplets from a carrier of the virus and they also protect others from your droplets in case you are an asymptomatic carrier. Wearing a face mask in public is more than just the polite thing to do – it saves lives. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a cloth mask or face covering when in public places to help stop the spread of this deadly virus. With the number of infections, along with the global death toll, wearing a mask is an easy way to do your part to stop the spread and stay safe. While you may know why masks are important, you may like to know how our fabric face masks are made.

Why Does It Matter?

The way a mask is made matters, because it will impact how effective it is in protecting you and others. If a mask is made of a single layer of material with an open weave or fabric that does not catch droplets, the virus will pass easily through the weave of the material. If a mask is made with a fabric that is too thick or too heavy, it will impede safe breathing. Aside from the fabric, the way a mask is made matters in the details such as comfort and fit. When buying a reusable fabric mask, you should always consider how it is made to decide if it is the best choice. It is important to keep in mind that COVID-19 is a highly transmissible airborne virus with infections reported in nearly every country around the world. Wearing a good mask designed appropriately, will not only help you stay safe, but it will also protect your friends, coworkers, and the community to limit the spread.

Material

When it comes to how fabric face masks are made, the type of cloth is one of the top details to consider. While you may find a range of materials being used, the best material is a tightly woven cotton. Cotton is known for being soft and comfortable and breathable. It is a durable natural fiber that is easily washed and dried, and is long lasting, making it an excellent choice for a reusable cloth face mask. Layers of tightly woven cotton stop the droplets that carry the COVID virus from flowing through. The Wake Forest University Study found that tightly woven cotton, especially 180 thread count cotton, and flannel were both very effective at stopping droplets. While polyester or loosely woven fabrics performed poorly. Cotton flannel is a brushed fabric which is very soft, and the brushed fibers add to the randomness of the weave to help stop droplets. In the FAU test, we are proud to share our 2-layer flannel mask performed very similarly to a medical cone shaped mask, and the SwaddleDesigns chambray masks which use 3-layers of tightly woven 180 thread count cotton, have been proven has highly effective in the Florida Atlantic University lab test. Please see the video on the Lab test page.

Ear Loops

SwaddleDesigns uses soft stretchy ear loop elastics, because they can stretch to fit a range of face sizes, and if a snugger fit is desired, simple twist knots can be made in the ear loops to adjust the fit and provide a mask that fits more snugly to your face.

Sizing/Design

Another aspect of how our masks are made has to do with sizing and overall design. Over 14 measurements go into our mask designs. Our founder is an RN and she understands that comfort and fit are important for people to comply with wearing a mask. She is also a mom and cares about helping others, so she jumped in to help as soon as the CDC recommended cloth face coverings be worn by our citizens. Given the wide variety of face shapes this was quite the design task, but with 2 different shaped masks and two different fabric types, she has created a nice selection to fit a wide variety faces. We offer two designs to fit the most people: 2-layer flannel and 3-layer chambray in a multitude of styles and in 3 sizes. Large fits most men, Medium fits most women and teens, and Child size fits 2-year-olds to preteens. Look at the product in use images to consider which mask style and size looks like it would fit you best. Each of our masks has product in use images on a range of models. Fit is important so you may need to try on a couple – just like underwear – to find the mask that you find most comfortable. We have been told by nurses, doctors, first responders, grocery store clerks, pharmacists, teachers a that our masks are the most comfortable masks they have worn – and these people wear masks for hours at a time. Be sure to wash the masks before trying them on, because they are made with 100% cotton that shrinks when washed. The masks were designed and cut with this shrinkage in mind.

Layering

As mentioned before, you should only buy face masks that have more than one layer because they offer better protection.  We created our double layer mask first since we had our flannel on hand due to this fabric is used in our baby swaddle blankets, but we also offer a triple layer fabric mask design with lighter weight 180 thread count cotton.  Flannel is very comfortable, and children love it, perhaps because it reminds them of an old friend – their baby blanket. Flannel masks are also great to wear when it is cold outside or in cooler environments. Our Chambray mask is lightweight and great for summer or warmer environments. You should never buy a mask with just one layer as single layer masks are not effective.

Sewing It All Together

Our fabrics are cut carefully by hand by our team of experts. We converted our sewing facilities in Seattle in March 2020 to making our 2-layer cotton flannel masks and our team of expert sewists sew our masks with loving care. Our founder herself jumped in to sew masks until we could hire more sewists, and she continued to sew children’s masks until the team could fit them into the sewing queue. Next, to keep up with demand, we converted one of our audited baby blanket facilities in China, which is owned by a very nice family that we have worked with for over ten years, to make our Chambray masks. They are kind and caring people.

At SwaddleDesigns everything we do is based on the core mission of helping others. During this important time in history we hope you will consider purchasing our cloth masks to protect yourself, your family and others. We can stop this virus if we all work together and mask up to protect each other. We can do this!