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Are Flannel Face Masks Effective For COVID-19?

Experts Explain Why You Shouldn't Rely on Flannel Face Masks to Keep You Safe This Winter

Woman wearing a fabric face mask outdoors in front of the Christmas tree

Whether pajamas or bedding, flannel can be a cozy source of warmth throughout the winter months. But while a flannel face mask may seem like an easy way to keep your face warm during this cold, harsh weather, flannel's loosely woven material won't provide much protection against COVID-19.

"Because flannel face masks have a loose weave pattern, air pockets are formed and can create pathways for infectious airborne particles and droplets to enter, hence limiting [the mask's] protection of the wearer," Alexea Gaffney, MD, a board-certified infectious disease and internal medicine doctor in New York, told POPSUGAR. Even though flannel may be thicker, warmer, and softer than other materials, flannel masks are only suitable for COVID-19 protection when layered with a second mask made from tightly woven material, such as cotton (600 thread count per inch or greater), silk, or chiffon, Dr. Gaffney explained.

Avisheh Forouzesh, MD, a board-certified infectious disease and internal medicine specialist in New Jersey, added that you should wear the flannel mask atop the other layers, so it sits the furthest from your face. "Materials like flannel have shown to have good electrostatic filtering; however, the tightness of the weave is most important," Dr. Forouzesh explained. "The tighter the weave, the better the fabric is at filtering aerosols."

Dr. Forouzesh explained that the fit and feel of your face mask is just as important as the material. "A well-fitted mask should cover the entire chin and nose region without any gaps," she said, noting that once the mask is securely fitted, it shouldn't be touched or tampered with until you plan to remove it.

To maintain the structure and quality of the fabric, Dr. Gaffney recommends washing fabric masks after each use and changing your mask immediately if it becomes wet or there's a likely exposure that could have contaminated it.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.

Image Source: Getty / Xsandra
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