Frequently Asked Questions

This is our FAQ page.  If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please let us know.

Why did authorities tell you not to wear masks before?

The main reason many authorities recommended against wearing face masks in the earlier days of the pandemic was NOT that masks weren’t effective at preventing community spread.  Instead, they were concerned about the limited supply of medical-grade masks, and the need to preserve them for health care professionals.

Unfortunately, they created confusion by seeming to imply that masks were ineffective instead of just telling the world the truth and asking people not to buy up medical masks.  At this time, virtually all health authorities have come around to recommending mask wearing for anyone in public.  Better late than never.

Are your masks medical grade?

No. In Canada, medical protective devices are certified and regulated by Health Canada. We are producing washable, reusable fabric masks for the general public to help reduce demand for certified Personal Protective Equipment.

Can I put a mask on my child?

That’s entirely up to you.  If your child is old enough to understand what masks are for (and what they are NOT for), and you have reason to believe that it’s a good idea, AND you think it’s perfectly safe, then it’s probably fine, so long as you are aware of all the caveats listed above.  ALL OF THEM. 

To reiterate, you cannot 100% count on any mask keeping anyone, child or not, safe from any pathogen.  If your child just wants to look like a masked superhero, and knows enough not to try eating it or using it for a hanky, it will probably help keep him/her from sneezing on grandpa or unthinkingly sucking on a finger after touching the grocery cart, if you explain clearly why that’s a bad idea.  Maybe.  But only YOU can be the judge of that.  Obviously, if children find masks uncomfortable or hard to breathe through, or any health care professional tells you they shouldn’t wear masks, you should pay attention.  You’re entirely responsible if you decide to put a mask on your child, not anyone else, so don’t chance it if you aren’t absolutely sure s/he can be trusted to be safe with it.  Remember, just about anything can be a choking hazard to a child.

How do I clean/ wash fabric face masks?

According to the CDC advisory site, it’s actually okay to throw clothing from an actively ill person in with the rest of the family’s laundry into the washing machine, so long as you wash your hands after handling it, and clean any containers that touched it.  So if you’re healthy, it should definitely be fine just to throw your worn masks into the wash.  You’re supposed to use the warmest water setting that’s appropriate for what you’re washing, and dry them completely, but those CDC instructions specifically says to “follow manufacturer’s instructions” for the item, which sounds like there isn’t a particular temperature requirement. 

If you want to be able to bleach your masks, which is probably not necessary, you should probably go for white cotton ones, since a lot of fabrics and most colours won’t withstand bleach (be aware that elastics degrade quickly in bleach, so you may need to replace them a lot.  But elastic is cheap).  If your mask has a wire nose-piece, it could rust or degrade with bleach.  Or you could just boil the masks for a little while if you’re nervous.  Do not fry your masks.

Are face masks comfortable?

That depends on you and the mask.  We can really only speak for the masks we’re making, which lots of people do find far more comfortable than any of the disposable ones we’ve tried in the past — partly because we offer them in lots of different styles and shapes for different face shapes and preferences, and always line them with breathable materials.

You want masks that 1) are made from a soft, breathable, but still tightly woven fabric, 2) have some way to curve over the contours of your face instead of being totally flat, and 3) are the right shape for your face shape.  Avoid disposable masks made with scratchy material or in stick-straight, flat-as-a-sheet shapes, because you do NOT want to try breathing through a mask that’s sitting splat on your face. 

If you really hate fabric resting on your nose and mouth, or if you tend to sweat a lot, you’ll need a proper 3D style.  If you find your glasses fog up, you might need a nose wire to create a better seal.  If your ears are sensitive, you may need ties that go behind your head instead of ear elastics.  And so on and so forth.

A mask that feels super-comfy to you might feel restrictive and even painful to someone else (and vice versa).  If you want a run-down on how the structure of your nose, cheekbones, face length, and other features affect mask fit, you can find it here.

Could wearing face masks be harmful?

It’s unlikely, unless you’re buying medical masks that health care workers need to do their jobs, or you get sloppy with important safety precautions because you think you’re protected.  If you have heath or other conditions that makes it unsafe or inadvisable for you to wear them that’s for you and your physician to sort out.

For one thing, in lots of countries, wearing a face mask is, and always has been, a normal part of everyday hygiene — not just during an outbreak.  In many places, fun masks as a fashion statement are definitely a thing.  People might even be asked to wear them as a standard precaution (or courtesy to others) during big gatherings or on crowded transit, once again as a regular part of life, long before any pandemic. 

Now, most countries are either recommending the wearing of face masks in all public situations, or outright mandating it.   

Will wearing face masks stop the spread of germs?

The simple answer is now an official “Yes,” according to most authorities.

The complications arise because so much depends on how consistently and correctly people use masks, like any other tools.  That means you wash your hands properly before you put on your mask, then after you take off your mask and drop it into the washing machine, and wearing one every time you’re around people you can’t be 6 feet away from.  You should NEVER pull down your mask to talk to people.

Also, ill-fitting masks with giant gaps around the edges probably don’t work as well as they should.

Still, all masks must at least somewhat reduce the amount of droplets you release when you talk, sneeze, or cough, as well as the distance they travel.  If you try to spit mask-free, then spit again through a two-ply mask made from tightly woven fabric, you are going to notice a difference.  And also, a mask does keep other people’s droplets from landing directly on your nose and mouth (though it might not help much against aerosolized pathogens).

And once again, if you’re one of the many people who touch their faces without noticing, masks might prevent you from spreading your cold from your nose to that counter (or the other way around), if only by reminding you to be more aware of your face.

Should I even be wearing a face mask?

According to health authorities and updated information, the answer is generally yes, unless there are exceptional circumstances (such as a health condition that would make mask wearing risky for you).

Obviously, fun, colourful masks can be worn just as a fashion statement or to keep pollen off your face on your spring walks (especially since you’re not taking them away from people who need them for their work!).  But if you mean for safety purposes, here’s where things seem to stand as of now.

Yes, if you:

  • Want to help prevent community spread.  Very nearly half of all people without symptoms could still be carrying and spreading COVID-19, which is something we didn’t know a few months ago, so everyone wearing masks will help protect everyone.
  • Need a reminder not to keep touching your face.  You do it more than you’re aware of!  Masks can help make you notice when you do it.
  • Have cold-like symptoms and must care for, or share living space with, others. 
  • Just feel more at ease wearing one.  Germophobes and the anxious among us need some mental reassurance sometimes.
  • Are especially vulnerable to pathogens, whether it’s due to underlying conditions, age, stress level, etc., and your doctor thinks it might help
  • Are forced to be in a place with lots of people, either for required work or on transit or when grocery shopping.  Experts now pretty much all agree that masks can slow community spread!
  • Can’t maintain the recommended distance from people for reasons that are beyond your control, or to do a job considered essential
  • Already educated yourself on what masks can and can’t do, and feel you still want or need to wear them for reasons of your own

You need to educate yourself before wearing a mask if you:

  • Don’t know the proper way to use a mask (wash hands before and after, for example) or don’t launder them after each use
  • Think a mask makes you immune to infection or gives you licence to behave unsafely
  • Believe masks are a substitute for hand-washing or social distancing.  They really, really aren’t
  • Are buying up actual surgical masks (which our masks are NOT) if there’s a shortage and health care workers need them to do their job.  Obviously.  It is obvious, right?

You don’t need to wear a mask if you:

  • Have been told that you should not wear one by a health care professional for any reason
  • Experience any difficulty breathing, claustrophobic sensations, panic attacks, or any other personal conditions that may be triggered by wearing a mask, unless your doctor told you to wear one.  In that case, you let him/her sort it out.
  • If you live alone or only with an isolated family group in the middle of nowhere and never, ever come into contact with other people

But will your masks protect me against viruses?

If you mean “will the mask keep a virus off me?”, it’s hard to be sure, because studies are still just starting to be run.  It’s two layers of fairly closely-woven fabric covering your nose and mouth, so its probably okay to say it wouldn’t hurt any.   It could definitely help if it keeps you from unthinkingly nibbling on a contaminated fingernail while waiting in line at the grocery store! 

If you mean “will masks keep me safer?”, the answer is a definite YES according to current information, because masks keep sick people and carriers without symptoms from spreading viruses around.  This means that if everyone wears a mask, everyone is definitely safer, and other people wearing their masks do absolutely help protect you against viruses.

Other than that, we only have common sense to fall back on (I’d rather be wearing one than not if someone coughed on me, but then, you shouldn’t be within 6 feet/2 metres of anyone who could cough on you, remember?).  If you must care for your sister who has the flu, say, wearing a mask is likely better than NOT wearing a mask, especially if you wash your hands before putting on your mask AND after taking it off, and launder them as often as needed.  

Will masks protect me against viruses?

That depends on the mask.  N95 masks are made to seal tightly around your face and prevent most airborne pathogens from getting into you.  Disposable surgical masks are looser on your face, but are still considered to provide some significant protection against actual droplets that go flying due to coughing, sneezing, talking, etc..  Reusable cloth masks are a big question mark, mainly because there’s no standardization — you just can’t generalize.  Some are probably useless (mainly because they’re too thin or porous, or don’t cover enough, or fit too poorly), while others might be as good as or better than some disposable masks.