9 Best Face Masks With Filters on Amazon
Need help choosing a face mask? Here's a guide to face masks with filters, which can help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
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Face masks help prevent Covid-19 transmission
Currently, coronavirus cases are rising worldwide, and specifically, in the United States. And new coronavirus symptoms and complications continue to present themselves with troubling regularity. While much remains to be learned about Covid-19, there is one thing that is clear: wearing a face mask can help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and save lives.
Wearing a face mask in public
You’re probably aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a face mask whenever you’re out in public—and in private if you are with people who don’t live with you. Since June 8, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been advising governments to encourage the general public to wear face coverings in crowded or confined spaces, noting “by wearing a mask, you protect others. When others wear a mask, they protect you.”
While any covering is better than none, according to Loretta Fernandez, PhD, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University, who’s been researching face masks with her colleague at Northeastern University, Amy Mueller, better still is a cloth mask comprised of multiple layers, including a filter—i.e., a piece of unwoven material capable of catching particles from the air that are as small as those associated with the spread of Covid-19.
The reason is that multiple layers, in general, are more effective at blocking droplets and larger aerosols that leave your mouth and nose while you speak, breathe, and cough, says Fernandez. They create a complicated maze-like environment that makes it difficult for virus particles to get through. When one of those layers is a filter, the challenge is even greater, making filtered masks potentially more effective at preventing the spread of Covid-19.
So, what exactly makes a particular face mask more effective versus less? Here are some factors to consider.
What the science says about face coverings and coronavirus
Preliminary findings from a June report preprinted (meaning it was released early and not yet peer-reviewed) by the Royal Society and British Academy indicated that cloth face masks do indeed protect the people who wear them—as well as the people around them—from coronavirus.
Certain materials are better than others, with tightly woven high grade cotton and denim, as well as hybrid and multilayer fabric (e.g., silk-cotton), better than say, a knitted scarf. And one thing they all have in common—even commercial-grade respirators like the N95 and KN95—is that a proper fit is important. When there was a gap between the skin and any kind of face covering the risk of infection was higher, according to the analysis that combined the results of a number of different studies. Try to avoid these other face mask mistakes, too.
In another study published in June in The Journal of Hospital Infection, researchers looked at the efficacy of face coverings such as linen or cotton dish towels, vacuum cleaner bags, pillowcases, antimicrobial pillowcases, 100 percent cotton T-shirts, and scarves, as well as materials such as silk, cotton, and linen. They found that any face covering (which ranged up to medical-grade respirators), reduced the risk of infection by 24 percent to 99 percent, depending on the mask. Among the homemade face masks, scarves were the least protective and vacuum cleaner bags were the most protective. (Here are the best face masks for teachers in the classroom.)
A separate August study (also preprinted) in medRvix found that areas around the world that did not require wearing face masks saw a higher Covid-19 death rate compared to their mask-wearing counterparts. The Covid-19 per capita death rate increased on average, 55 percent per week in countries where masks were not recommended, compared with seven percent in countries and cultures where mask-wearing was supported. According to the University of Washington, which is using data modeling to make Covid-19 projections for the United States, at least 45,000 deaths by November 2020 could be preventable if 95 percent of people were to wear a face mask in public. (These recommended goggles and face shields are also a good way to protect against coronavirus transmission.)
In other words, as restrictions start to ease with states reopening, face masks can help prevent the spread of the virus. (Here’s how to disinfect DIY face masks.)
What to look for in a face mask
When you’re looking for a face mask, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is best for you and your needs. Here are a variety of factors to consider, including:
What it’s made of
The WHO advises fabric masks should consist of at least three layers, including:
- An inner layer of absorbent material such as cotton
- A middle layer made of a non-woven material like polypropylene (Other types of filters include carbon or activated charcoal, or high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.)
- Outer layer of non-absorbent material such as nylon
How it fits
When wearing a mask with a filter, viral transmission can occur when your breath is directed around the filter, or even around the mask, notes Fernandez, so it is critical that your mask fit snugly so as to keep the air moving through the mask, as opposed to leaking around it. “Make sure there are no gaps,” she advises, “and make sure that the filter is large enough to cover your entire mouth and nose.” Face mask accessories can help adjust your mask that doesn’t fit quite right.
No exhalation valves
Exhalation valves, which let unfiltered air flow out, may look cool and high tech, but we didn’t include any masks that have them because they may decrease the mask’s efficacy, according to the CDC. In other words, masks with exhalation valves can protect the person wearing the mask (and are meant to make it easier to breathe), but don’t protect the people around them because the exhaled air is not filtered.
In keeping with these recommendations, here are highly rated face masks on Amazon that contain a filter or a pocket for a filter, which we provide options to choose from.
Toysopoly Premium 3-Layer Reusable Face Mask
$11 for two
This mask features two cotton layers and these layers are antimicrobial, according to the company. This mask is marketed as washable and reusable and has a polypropylene filtration layer. It provides ample coverage with a bigger curve where the nose is and a flatter curve intended for over the chin. Although this mask comes with ear loops, rather than string ties, it does come with precise instructions on how to get the mask to fit just right on the face. Extra polypropylene filters can be found on Amazon for $17 for 30 pieces. If you prefer to substitute activated charcoal filters for polypropylene, you can find five-layer activated carbon filters on Amazon for $35 for 100. In each case, you may need to cut the filters to fit the masks.
Noble Mount Fabric Face Mask with Activated Charcoal PM2.5 Filter
Like the Toysopoly mask above, the Noble Mount consists of two 100 percent cotton layers with a filtration layer in the middle, except the Noble Mount’s filter is made of activated carbon (i.e., activated charcoal as discussed earlier) and blocks particulate matter as small as two and one-half microns in width (hence this filter’s certification is as a “PM2.5,” which stands for “particulate matter” as small as 2.5 microns). This mask is made from cotton, which was one of the materials that tested favorably in the June 2020 study. One thing to note is that Noble Mount suggests changing the filter every three to five days, so you’ll want to purchase extra filters.
No Headache Adult Filtered PPE Mask
“PPE” stands for personal protective equipment, Fernandez says, as compared with “PHPE,” which stands for public health protective equipment. The latter refers to respirators such as N95 and KN95s. The No Headache PPE mask is made of three layers, two of which are nylon, and one of which is a polypropylene filter layer. Nylon is an effective inner or outer layer; it’s simply not as soft and breathable as cotton. But for some people, the smooth feel is preferable. What is most outstanding about this mask is that it comes in four different sizes and a sizing guide to be used with a cloth tape measure. It’s double cone-shaped in that it pokes out from the nose and the chin. Again, for some, this may be preferable. The one caveat we should mention is that this mask has a permanent filter layer. In other words, you can’t swap it out for a filter made of a different material, nor can you remove it and replace it after washing.
Cubcoats Kids Face Mask
$15 for two
These kid-friendly masks are composed of two cotton layers (with space for the filter of your choice) and have an animal nose to make them more fun for children to wear. The center is wire-structured for comfort. They’re also washable. You can find kiddie-sized 5-layer activated carbon filters on Amazon for $14 for 20.
Oryn 6-Layer Extra Wide Mask
$20 for four
The Oryn is well-priced for a face mask that comes with six layers, including a cotton lining, a waterproof nylon outside layer, and four polypropylene filter layers. It’s important to note that the polypropylene layers are built-in and not replaceable. It also boasts minimal eyeglass-fogging, which seems to be supported by its reviews.
Henry Heller Cotton Guitar-Pattern Face Mask
$20 f0r three
This two-layer cotton Henry Heller face mask requires the purchase of a separate filter and has a 3″ wide pocket for the insertion of the filter of your choice. What makes this one special is that the inner layer is made of knit muslin cotton for a comfortable feel against your face. Also, the cone-shape is bendable and adjustable.
PHLONA Kid-Size Cotton Flannel Mask
Made in the U.S. by laid-off garment workers, this mask has two layers of cotton flannel fabric. This small-sized mask aims to be effective at protecting children from coronavirus. You’ll need to purchase the filter separately, but Amazon provides a link you can follow to do so, like these activated carbon filter mouth masks for $7 for a pack of 10. It also has an adjustable nose-wire and is available in adult sizes and a huge variety of colors as well.
Proper Cloth – Everyday Face Filtered Face Mask
The Proper Cloth filtered face mask is made from 100 percent cotton shirt-fabric that has been treated with an antimicrobial finish, and it includes a replaceable three-layer polypropylene filter which has been lab tested to filter out at least 85 percent of .1 micron-charged particles. The manufacturer suggests replacing either the mask or the filter after 25 washes. With a moldable nose piece and a seamed silhouette for the best possible fit, this is a great mask for wearing with office-type clothing.
Alternative Masks – Filtered 3-Layer “Dress” masks
$50 for five
These masks, which come in dress-shirt material, are suitable for both men and women are also three-layer, with a layer of cotton on the inside and outside, and a layer of polypropylene filtering in the center. The only possible downside to these masks is that they don’t have a non-absorbent cover. That means they’re going to look dirtier faster than one with, say, a nylon cover. Of course, they’ll require laundering at the same rate as any other mask. But they’re washable in cold water.
- Johns Hopkins COVID Map: "Cases around the world"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Cases in the U.S."
- medRxiv: "Association of country-wide coronavirus mortality with demographics, testing, lockdowns, and public wearing of masks"
- University of Washington: "COVID-19 predictions"
- CDC: "Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings: Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19"
- World Health Organization: "Masks and COVID-19"
- Loretta Fernandez, assistant professor, College of Engineering, Northeastern University, Chicago
- Northeastern University: "Covid Mask Testing Study Preliminary Results"
- WHO: "Updated Mask Guidance"
- Royal Society and British Academy: "Effectiveness of Cloth Coverings"
- NPR: "A User's guide to Masks"
- Nature Medicine: "Respiratory Virus Shedding and Face Mask Efficacy"
- Journal of Hospital Infection: "COVID-19 and use of non-traditional masks: how do various materials compare in reducing the risk of infection for mask wearers?"
- WUSF Public Media: "A User's Guide To Masks: What's Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself)"
- WHO: "Director General's Opening Remarks Regarding Updated Mask Guidance"