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Where are you buying face masks?

Now we’re seeing face coverings worn more widely, what’s your experience been like shopping for them? Have you been tempted to make your own instead?

The government guidance in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England includes wearing face coverings in certain circumstances where social distancing isn’t possible.

Each of the three governments has published its own guidance on the circumstances where there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces.

However, in Wales, the guidance has not changed and the wearing of face coverings is not suggested

Read the latest face mask advice and key information on Which? News

It’s not mandatory to wear a mask, but we have seen more and more people wearing them out and about in the UK.

 

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The government has now issued guidance advising that people ‘should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and when they come into contact with others who they do not normally meet’. But, what face coverings should you avoid? . ❌ N95 masks: these are medical-grade masks and are not appropriate for everyday use. Buying these could divert essential supplies from frontline health workers who do need them. ❌ Surgical masks: buying these could also potentially contribute to shortages for frontline workers, and they’re single-use, which isn’t practical for general public use day-to-day. ❌ Dust masks: these should be avoided because the valve lets you exhale unfiltered air, which makes them suitable for DIY projects but not suitable for protecting others in the community. . The best option for you is likely to be a reusable cloth mask that you’re able to wash between uses. These can help us protect each other without contributing to PPE shortages for essential workers. You can buy these on a number of sites, including Etsy or you can try to make your own. . #facemasks #masks #coronavirus #lockdown #COVID_19 #staysafe #stayhome

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Your shopping experiences

For many, buying a face mask will be an uncommon, if not completely new experience, so where do you start?

Lots of options for cloth face masks have been appearing on online shops and marketplaces, with prices generally between £5 and £30 for one mask or several, plus postage costs.

Read our guide on where to buy face masks and how to make your own

Our health researchers bought some masks from Etsy sellers recently, including pleated and moulded types with prices ranging from £7-£20. They found that while some fit well, others were rather loose – it’s important that the face mask you wear fits snugly. 

I’ve also noticed masks appearing on clothing sites that I regularly buy from – even some stationery shops appear to be branching out.

Have you been shopping for face coverings? If so, where did you buy yours?

What is the most important factor to you when buying a reusable face mask?
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Making your own face mask

Demand for masks is only likely to go up, so some may find it easier to make their own instead. 

It’s easy to do, so you may want to make several so that you have one spare while washing the other.

We’d like to hear your stories – have you decided to make your own masks? Or have you purchased any online?

If you’ve bought online, what was the quality like? Let us know in our polls and the comments below.

Would you prefer to buy a reusable mask, or use one you've made yourself?
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Comments

It is commonplace in Tokyo, one of the largest densely metropolitans in the world, for people to wear masks. The current number of Covid-19 cases in Japan – 16,719 and 874 deaths.

Here’s how to make your own quick and easy masks using an old T-shirt: www3.nhk.or.jp – ‘Upcycle’ a T-shirt into a KAWAII Mask!
NHK.WORLD-JAPAN News.

JANE GOLDHILL says:
31 May 2020

I work at Northwick park hospital on the main reception front of house. I had to provide my own PPE. In February i ordered 10 mask from Go groopie for £9.99. The money was taken from my account on 20th April but I never recieved my mask. I complained & was told that I hadn’t paid for the postage & therefore I won’t be able to have the mask now but they’ve kept my £9.99

How did this story end? What did your card issuer say when you reported that you did not receive the goods that you paid for? Did they do a chargeback?

GinnyIckle says:
31 May 2020

Fit is most important. Many masks are suitable only for small faces; I want one that will cover my nose *and* chin, even if I speak.

Attachment method matters. Elastic may be handy, but it’s agonising if it doesn’t fit just right. Ties can be fine, if the mask fits well; “T-shirt yarn” ties might be more comfortable. The best we’ve tried has a velcro strap behind the neck with loops over the ears to keep it from sliding down — but that had a months-long wait before the maker just said “out of stock”.

Looks matter, too — less so, now that masks are common, but this is our new face.

Breathability, though, that matters most.

We’ve bought nose mouth masks from Playmobil, which, for us, fit well and are reusable – https://www.playmobil.co.uk/playmobil-nose-mouth-mask-for-size-l-turquoise/70722.html
Seem to fit better than the previous disposable masks we were using

Please can Which? give us some opinion about the effectiveness/safety of the virustatic shield snood-type maske that has been developed in conjunction with researchers at Manchester University (see https://www.virustaticshield.com/). It claims “…Virustatic Shield gives anti-viral protection for you and your family. The coating, along with the base material forms an antiviral, multi-functional protective snood. It’s light and breathable, with proven stopping power. Lab tests show it traps airborne influenza viruses.” They also claim they are “Tested by world-leading scientists…Reusable and washable..Now traps up to 98% of influenza viruses”. They retail at about £20 per snood. I’ve bought one for myself and family members but, if they are as effective as they claim, I don’t understand why they don’t figure in any mask reviews I’ve seen.

Hi Lyndon, thanks for raising this, as I’d also like to know. I actually own three of these now as I’d seen them via the BBC and in a few papers and was interested in the research. I’ve passed the request on to see if we can look into them officially.

Looks good and seems like as good a protection as we shall get in the short term. At £20 each I think I shall just order some and see how we get on with them. Any problems, I’ll report back.

That was my thinking too. Let me know what you think John.

I bought ours very early in the lockdown (shortly after reading the BBC coverage) but since my wife and I have limited the amount that we go into the outside world we’ve not used them a lot. However, my experience from the times I have used them is… The instructions say that the filtration effectiveness can be increased further by folding the snood back on itself, thereby doubling the thickness of the ‘filter’. That, however is done at the expense of shortening the overall length of the snood (which is not exactly generous to start with): this makes the snood a little less giving so it is quite forcibly tight around the face, which is uncomfortable, and more prone to gradually rolling off the nose. I now, therefore, use it in just a single layer.
The amount of material in the snood is trimmed to the absolute minimum, I would say. I would like to have a scientific opinion on whether one of these snoods could be folded and used as a filter layer in a more conventional mask and whether this would increase or reduce the overall effectiveness of the mask.

I recently obtained masks for myself and immediate family from a friend who has been making them.
They are 3 pleated, double layer cotton to an NHS approved design with a pocket into which a filter can by placed if needed and held by soft elastic hooks around the ears. Very well made and comfortable. After each use they are washed and air dryed for the the next use. We have 3 each.

Andrew Hardie says:
1 June 2020

I bought a snood as used by walkers etc. which would have some use after this crisis is over. It has an elastic adjustable draw-cord. It’s microfibre material is rather warm for this weather . I searched the web for more conventional masks but couldn’t find any that didn’t look like shoddy rip-offs or were outrageously expensive.
It has always seemed logical to me that masks should be worn as all the far-eastern countries where mask wearing is normal have fared much better than ourselves in this crisis. I believe that the original advice that they were ineffective was to protect the supply chain for essential workers. Let’s face it why did medical staff always wear masks during operations long before this crisis if they were ineffective.

I would love Which? to do laboratory test of home-made and reusable masks, to look at the microbiological burden on them over time. I am very concerned that people reuse them and that the masks themselves are a breeding ground for harmful bacterial infections. I also think there’s an issue regarding fibre breakdown and inhalation – so we need to investigate also how/when they are washed. I know you can’t ‘standardize’ home-made masks but volunteers are being asked to make them for school employees and other people, and I think the risks are massively underestimated – it’s a cheap fix that could lead to huge problems

We have been reading conflicting information during the coronavirus pandemic. Advice on avoiding taking ibuprofen is now in question, the potential benefits and risks of chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine are even more hotly debated, and now the World Health Organisation has changed its view and suggests we should wear masks in public paces: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52945210

The priority must surely remain to ensure that key workers and those who are unable to work from home should take priority.
I hope we don’t see another round of price gouging.

As more of us are being encouraged or instructed to wear face coverings, we’re concerned that some sellers will try and exploit the situation and hike up the prices of masks. Have you come across any over-priced masks? Or have you been forced to pay over-the-odds for one in order to follow the guidelines? Leave a comment below with your experiences.

Em says:
10 June 2020

You can read the World Health Organization’s latest recommendations here:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks&publication=advice-on-the-use-of-masks-in-the-community-during-home-care-and-in-healthcare-settings-in-the-context-of-the-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)-outbreak

This information was published on 5 June 2020 and contains advice about the wearing an selection of materials for making non-medical and home-made face coverings. See page 8 onwards.

Susan Fowler says:
12 June 2020

I ordered 3 material, washable, face masks from HomeLux online https://www.homelux.online
which was advertised on Facebook, on 24th May for £23.70. I received an email confirming the order immediately and payment was taken from my credit card. No masks have been received, I have contacted the company by email, messenger and tried the customer service phone number, which is no longer in use. I have not had any response from the company and Facebook is now showing lots of comments from people who have also ordered, not received the goods, not had a response and have had payment taken. The address of the company, when looked at on Google, is a residential bungalow. I have contacted my credit card provider and reported them to Trading Standards. The website is still active. This looks like yet another scam which is taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Susan Roberts says:
17 June 2020

I have also bought two masks and have had the same problem. The key issue is that whoever is scamming people is also putting the lives of vulnerable pensioners at risk. I’m going through Trading Standards. I’m going to ‘create’ a Facebook Page in protest. Watch me!

Judith Donegan says:
18 June 2020

I too ordered a face mask from HomeLux and have yet to receive mine. Now seems unlikely! My experience has been much the same as Susan Fowler’s although the website is no longer there. It now shows Site currently unavailable’. I have advised my bank and wait to hear back from them.

Re my earlier posting regarding the Virustatic Shield snood facemask. The company have just issued a new press release about the effectiveness of the anti-Covid properties of the Viruferrin protein used to coat the snood. See here : https://www.virustaticshield.com/press-release-18-jun/

As we settle towards a new normal, I have discovered face masks on sale in some of my local shops. For example at my local b&m, I was able to buy 10 disposable masks for £5.99.

Sheila Armstrong says:
17 July 2020

The mask I choose to wear is one that fits snugly to my face, that is easily hand washable after every use and that with COPD (not the worst kind) I can actually breath through it. The triple fold tend to make glasses steam and do not fit snugly to side of face and are harder to breathe through. I have experience of both and find the man made fabric work better for me. Or even a scarf used, pre UK lock down, worn when locked down in Southern Italy before I could get triple mask, worked quite well, despite feeling like bandit!

Someone on the news yesterday had a mask with a transparent area over the mouth. That looked good because you could see smiles, but it also helped those who are hard of hearing to lip read. It was more complicated than a normal mask but reusable.

Peter says:
18 July 2020

I discovered that M & S are selling re-usable face masks at £7.50 for 5. They were out of stock but there was a facility on their website to be notified when they were available again. This happened after a couple of days so I have ordered some, for collection at my local M & S next week.