A full year into the coronavirus pandemic, we now know a lot more than we used to. Surfaces? Not as scary as we once thought. Social distancing? Still crucial. 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, they’ve now become a crucial tool in preventing transmission, especially in indoor spaces. And we’ve also 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 emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.
In response to emerging variants of the virus that are more dangerous, double masking has become a growing trend. Double-masking has been endorsed by Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC. For double masking, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask. In order to that, you’ll need to stock up on disposable masks (and remember, you should be washing your fabric face masks). But 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: Despite greater availability, the use of N95s is still discouraged by the CDC for use by the general public. This is subject to some controversy. N95 masks with exhalation valves are also discouraged, because they allow respiratory droplets from the wearer to escape through the valve.
- Disposable masks: The CDC says these should have multiple layers of non-woven material and a nose-piece 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: 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.
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. ECOGUARD Disposable Face Mask
EcoGuard’s face masks are made in the USA, and are ATSM level 3 compliant. They come in either blue or purple. The masks have three layers for greater protection. The masks also come in a box with a QR code that you can scan to ensure their authenticity.
2. Evolvetogether Disposable Masks
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. Foshan Yilikang 3-Ply Pleated Face Mask
If you’re looking to stock up, this option from Office Depot is a good place to look. The box includes 50 pleated face masks. There are three layers of non-woven fabric for adequate protection, and a metal nose clip in the mask allows you to ensure that they’re properly fitted.
5. Just Play Kid’s Disposable Face Mask – S – 24pc
As schools approach reopening, 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 prints that young children can appreciate. Like their full-size counterparts, these kids’ masks have three layers of protection and a nose-clip. They’re made for kids 2-7.
6. WeCare Individually Wrapped Disposable Face Masks
If you’re a business owner and need to distribute masks to customers or employees, these masks from WeCare are a good 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 black or white.
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. WeCare Kids Tie Dye Disposable Face Masks
These adorable tie dye disposable face masks are sized for kids and plenty colorful so little ones will actually want to wear them. They come individually-wrapped so you can 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. The inner layer is soft and gentle on the skin, while the outer layer has a high-density filter for protection.
10. Biwisy Black Disposable Face Masks
These face masks are designed to be thrown out after each use and come in a few different colors, including black. They 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. These masks have also gone through a waterproof test and have reinforced seams for durability.
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. mystcare Disposable Face Mask 50-Pack
These disposable face masks from mystcare are designed to be worn for 5-8 hours and come individually-wrapped, so 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 hypoallergenic material.
13. Wecolor Disposable 3-Ply Face Masks
This is another similar disposable face mask option. These masks also have high elastic ear loops, a 3-ply breathable surface and are non-woven. The layers are composed of a non-woven layer, a filter paper and another non-woven layer. The fabric stretches to cover your nose and mouth. These masks do not have an adjustable nose clip, so users who prefer that should try another option.
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.