3 masks floating in center of lead
Credit: From left to right: Courtesy of Vida; Courtesy of Girs; Courtesy of Hedley and Bennet

The Ultimate Guide to Buying Masks for Wearing to the Grocery Store (and Beyond)

published Apr 30, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

To mask or not to mask? That is no longer the question. After some initial confused (and confusing) messaging about face masks, it is now clear: Wearing a mask helps protect others and is recommended by the CDC when in public, especially in enclosed spaces like grocery stores and pharmacies. Remember PPE (i.e., surgical masks and N95 masks) should be reserved for healthcare workers; cloth face coverings will suffice for us regular people.

But what exactly should you look for in buying a mask, and where should you get one? Face masks are rapidly selling out and delivery times are slow as production ramps up to meet this massive universal need. We’re here to answer your questions. Here’s everything you need to know about buying a face mask right now.

Credit: Courtesy of Hedley and Bennett
Hedley & Bennett Mask

Here’s why you should wear a mask to the grocery store.

Dr. Donald Schaffner, a food microbiologist at Rutgers University, along with a team of experts at NC State University state simply and clearly that “cloth face coverings may help to catch particles expelled by a cough or sneeze and reduce the spread of the virus by people who may be infected but are not showing symptoms.”

According to Schaffner, “It’s important to wear face masks anytime you will be around other people … especially when social distancing is not possible (i.e., at the grocery store). A significant number of cases of COVID-19 have been as a result with contact with people who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. It’s a good precautionary measure to wear a face mask to try to trap virus particles that you may be exhaling. Although face masks are not perfect, they do seem to potentially have some effect on risk, so it’s a best practice.”

It’s important to note that while cloth face coverings are not 100 percent effective in preventing the transmission of the virus, the physical barrier is believed to slow community transmission, explains the CDC.

What criteria should I look for in a mask?

CDC guidelines currently outline that a face covering should do the following:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • Include multiple layers of fabric.
  • Allow for breathing without restriction.
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

As far as the recommended face mask material goes, the CDC demonstrates a hand-sewn example made from multiple layers of cotton secured with elastic or hair ties. They explain that you can also use a T-shirt or bandana in a pinch.

There’s another feature of face masks that Schaffner says is potentially desirable: “I also see there are some cloth masks that have a place for insertion of a filter, so that may be an option people want to consider. “

The CDC recommends adding a coffee filter into hand-sewn masks to more closely mimic the effectiveness of a medical-grade mask. You can also add a layer of paper towel to serve a similar function.

Credit: Courtesy of Gir
Gir Mask

How (and why) companies are pivoting to making face masks.

In the past two months, countless companies have started producing face coverings for civilian use. One such example is Hedley & Bennett, a premium apron and chef gear company which pivoted to the face-mask movement fairly early in the game.

When we reached out, founder Ellen Marie Bennett explained that the decision was a no-brainer. “When I heard that Governor Cuomo said they were running out of supplies I felt like we had to jump in and help.” After looking to the CDC guidelines for guidance, they went a step further. “We consulted with Dr. Robert Cho, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and developed a mask with a slot for removable filters that everyone can use for extra coverage.”

For every “Wake Up & Fight Mask” you purchase from Hedley & Bennett, they donate one to someone on the front lines (doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery store employees, restaurant workers). “We’ve been able to donate over 120,000 masks,” Bennett says.

Another company in the food space making the pivot to masks is GIR (the maker of our favorite silicone spatula). GIR is now producing mask kits for adults and kids made out of medical-grade silicone that come with a space for a filter. Another unique feature is that you can sanitize GIR masks in the dishwasher, microwave, or oven. “We’re relying on the goodwill of makers and those willing to step up to supply masks and other PPE for essential workers not in the healthcare industry, so that critical supplies aren’t compromised,” founder Samantha Rose explained on their decision to pivot.

Credit: Courtesy of The Well
The Well Mask

Here are 25+ places to buy masks right now.

The Quickest-Shipping Masks

  • Altaire: Buy 1/donate 1 double-layer cotton mask, $10. 3-5 business days for delivery.
  • Ari Jogiel: Buy 1/donate 1 antimicrobial fabric mask with adjustable straps in XS/S and M/L sizes, $26; 3-5 business days for delivery.
  • For Days: Buy 5/donate 5 organic cotton jersey masks, $25; ships within one week.
  • Los Angeles Apparel: 100% cotton face masks with adjustable straps, $30 for 3; 1 week for delivery.

If you need to go out sooner than these ship dates, you can also make a no-sew face mask. Watch our how-to video below:

For those who want to sew their own mask at home, this step-by-step tutorial from The New York Times is a great resource.

Masks with Options for Filters

  • Brave New Look: Cotton/spandex blend mask with filter, $14; Ships within a week.
  • Casetify: Buy 1/donate 1 cotton mask with filter, $15; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • GIR: Silicone mask kits and filters for adults and kids, $15 each; option to buy one/donate one, $30; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Hedley & Bennet: Buy 1/donate 1 cotton mask with filter for $22; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Logan + Lenora: Pack of 3 face masks with pocket for filter, $25; 1-2 weeks for delivery.
  • MASQD: Cotton/lycra masks in various patterns with pocket for filter (sold separately), $25 each; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Vida: 100% cotton mask with replaceable filters, $10 for 1, $18 for 2, $36 for 4; 2-3 weeks for delivery. 10% of profits to COVID-19 relief efforts.
  • Winter Session: Buy 1/donate 1 polyester and nylon mask with disposable filters, adult and child sizes, $14 each; Shipping varies.
Credit: Courtesy of Vida
Vida Mask

Masks for Kids

  • Alex + Nova: 100% organic cotton masks in adult and child sizes; $20 for 1, $16 each for 2, $15 each for 3 or more; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Avocado Green: 100% organic cotton masks with tie straps for adults and kids, $23 for 4, $36 for 8; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Christy Dawn: 100% organic cotton masks with tie straps for adults and kids, $30 for 5; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Fado: Adult and kids modal, viscose, and spandex masks, $10 each. 2 weeks for delivery.
  • Rafi Nova: 8-pack of adult and child masks; $78; 1 week for delivery.
  • Stitchroom: Cotton blend masks with elastic or ties for adults and kids, from $25; 1-2 weeks for delivery.

Masks on a Budget

  • Etsy: Search for handcrafted face masks of various fabrics, cuts, prints and prices; delivery times also vary.
  • New Republic: Buy 3/donate 3 cotton masks, $12; 2 weeks for delivery.
  • Strata: Cotton face mask, first one free, all additional are $4; 1 week for delivery.
  • The Well: 5-pack jersey fabric masks, $15; 3-4 weeks for delivery.
Credit: Courtesy of Avocado Green Mattress
Avocado Mask

Masks with Unique Prints

  • Birdwell: Buy 1/donate 1 reversible breathable SurfStretch fabric masks, $20; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Emilia George: %100 expandable cupro masks, $10 for one; 1-2 weeks for delivery.
  • Reformation: 5-pack of tie-strap printed masks, $25; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Sanctuary Clothing: 5-pack printed cotton masks, $28; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Save Our Factory: Waterproof face mask in various fabrics, $20 for 1; 1 week for delivery.
  • Sock Fancy: Buy 1/donate 1 adjustable, printed face mask, from $9; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Threadless: 3-ply polyester custom print face mask, $17; 1-2 weeks for delivery. Proceeds up to $250K go to MedShare.

Masks Made of Alternative Materials

  • Buck Mason: Antimicrobial face masks, $20 for pack of 5; 2-3 weeks for delivery.
  • Caraa Sport: Buy 1/donate 1 nylon and cotton face mask pack, $25 for 5; 4 weeks for delivery.
  • Jaanuu: Buy 1/donate 1 antimicrobial scrubs fabric masks, $25 for 5; preorder for June shipping.
  • Onzie: 2-pack of upcycled spandex masks, $24; 1-2 weeks for delivery.

To source the above face mask options, we extensively researched retailers selling masks and whittled the list down to options that best-matched CDC guidelines. Before you purchase a mask from this list, consider checking your neighborhood Facebook group for a locally-sourced option.

Have you found another face mask that works for you? Let us know in the comments.