Q13 FOX: From quality, fit and material, what you need to know about picking a mask

SEATTLE -By now you likely already know, if you plan on leaving the house, per the government mandate-you're going to need a mask. The good news is, there's a lot out there. But that can also make navigating which mask is best for you a little trickier. Much like clothing, quality, fit, and material make a big difference.

"You've got your run of the mill cotton mask, the bandanna, it's not going to be terribly effective, but it will prevent you from spreading it," says Dr. Andy Radvany of St.Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham.  He says something covering your face is always going to be better than nothing. Generally, a paper surgical mask is going to offer more protection than cloth. And at the top of the list in terms of effectiveness, the N95. But there's a catch.

"Nobody really seems to know this and they're running around thinking I'm okay, well if you haven't been fit tested you don't know you're okay, that's a false sense of security," says Dr. Radvany. Getting an N95 from a hardware store really isn't comparable to what health care professionals have, because they have theirs fitted to their face. Dr. Radvany says that's what makes them truly work so well. So for us that don't have access to that, Dr. Radvany says the next best thing is "the material they use for quilting." If you're not a quilter, that means a layer of cotton, then a layer of silk or chiffon, and another layer of cotton. He says that combination has proven to be extremely effective.

When it comes to reusable handmade masks, we consulted the woman who's made thousands, Ming Ming Tung-Edelman. Ming Ming runs the nonprofit Refugee Artisan Initiative, which employs immigrant women who've recently come to America. Ming Ming's team has been donating their masks to front-line workers for months, and now they're selling their masks to the public.  It's safe to say, they've learned a thing or two about what works best for reusable masks. "In order to have the best absorbance and also keep the virus away, you need to look for cotton, 100% cotton." Ming Ming says the key is looking at the thread count. A little pro tip, the softer and more comfortable it is, the higher the thread count.

"The higher the thread count, that means it's more tightly woven, so therefore

it makes it less likely the virus will get through," says Ming Ming.

For reusable masks, treat them like you would socks and underwear, wash regularly and have plenty of clean ones handy.

And while wearing a mask may not be super comfortable, Dr. Radvany says keep this in mind: "if you don't like a mask you're really not going to like the ventilator."

The Refugee Artisan Initiative is selling their masks in Seattle Metropolitan Markets and on their website. 20% of proceeds from their black lives matter and vote masks will go to the ACLU.

If you plan to make masks, you can get the fabric donated through the Lieutenant Governor's mask challenge, so long as you pledge to make 100.   

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