Face masks: Everything you need to know

Your hub for buying and wearing face masks, as well as tips to make your own at home.

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Surgical face masks criss-crossed on red background

The World Health Organization is encouraging governments to ask people to wear fabric face masks when out in public. Furthermore, the WHO strongly advises people who are sick or caring for someone who’s sick to wear masks.

In Canada, the government recommends wearing face masks even if you feel perfectly healthy as a way to protect the people around you from possible infection. In fact, depending on where you live in Canada, you may actually be required by law to wear a face mask when out in public.

Find out where you can get hold of face masks, or how to make them yourself, from our helpful guide below. Plus, learn about the differences between different types of masks, and get tips on how to use your protective wear properly to receive the greatest protection.

Where to buy masks online in July 2020

Clinical Supplies

Clinical Supplies provides top quality masks, gloves and hand sanitizers. It offers Canadian-wide delivery on all orders from its warehouse in British Columbia.

  • Verified by Finder
  • Bulk purchases over 10,000 units
  • FDA registered KN95 masks
  • Quick order dispatch (1-3 days)

Everbright Global

Everbright Global is a Canadian company specializing in PPE products such as masks, surgical/isolation gowns and protective wear for the eyes and face.

  • Free delivery on orders over $80
  • FDA approved masks
  • 30-day returns policy

Rona

For years, Canadians have trusted Rona for their home and hardware needs. Browse through a wide variety of quality respirator masks, and have your order shipped to your home (when possible) or to a nearby store.

  • No extra delivery fee for items marked “Online Exclusive”
  • Lots of time to decide if you want to keep unused items
  • Ships to your home, local stores, post offices and more

Amazon

If you’re looking to save some cash while you spend, check out what’s available on Amazon. You’ll be sure to find an unbeatable price here!

  • Sign up to Amazon Prime and get free shipping and returns on millions of items
  • Huge product range
  • Easily compare prices and ratings on similar products
Canadian Tire logo

Canadian Tire

This homegrown home-improvement superstore stocks a range of protective equipment, quality appliances, homeware, tools, outdoor gear and more.

  • Earn Triangle Rewards, which can be redeemed for Canadian Tire Money that can be used at SportChek, Atmosphere, Hockey Experts, Mark’s, Canadian Tire (including gas purchases) and other retailers
  • Free in-store pickup for items ordered online, or have purchases sent to your door for a reasonable fee

eBay

When it comes to competitive pricing, it doesn’t get much better than eBay. Shop for respirator masks and other health and safety items here. Join in the thrill of a bidding war or browse the “Buy It Now” options to secure your purchase.

  • Secure site with a range of payment options including PayPal
  • Prices are super affordable
  • Helpful product reviews on site
  • Free delivery from selected sellers

AliExpress

With thousands of brands and millions of products, AliExpress offers a full shopping experience with loads of options to choose from. Browse through a range of protective masks at hugely discounted prices – you won’t be disappointed!

  • Huge range of products, deals and sellers
  • Variety of shipping options
  • Competitive prices

Walmart

When it comes to sourcing the right protective gear, Walmart won’t let you down. This retailer offers a wide range of products – including respirator masks – that will help keep you and your family safe.

  • Competitive prices
  • Large range of products
  • Sign up to get the weekly flyer for special offers direct to your inbox
  • Ad match available

Home Depot

A dominant player on the Canadian home and hardware scene, The Home Depot has just about everything you need to conquer your next DIY project including protective gear, tools, supplies and more.

  • Plenty of time to return unused items (even more if you pay with a Home Depot Consumer Credit Card)
  • Free shipping on orders that reach or exceed a certain amount
  • Ship directly to your home or a nearby store
Sheridan Computers logo

Sheridan Computers

Sheridan Computers is a computer repair company that have started selling PPE items such as hand sanitizers, gloves and reusable masks.

  • Deliver throughout Canada
  • Accept various forms of payment, including cash on delivery
  • Have a physical store based in Mississauga

Are people in Canada required to wear face masks?

It depends on where you live. Certain cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston in Ontario have implemented bylaws requiring people to wear face masks when in public. Outside these jurisdictions, businesses and other organizations may still exercise the discretion to require customers and employees to wear face masks. In some regions, wearing a mask is mandatory when riding public transit.

The consequences for failing to follow regional rules usually involve stiff fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

It’s expected that more cities will consider adopting similar bylaws in the future to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as per the World Health Organization’s recommendations. Previously, the WHO had issued a statement advising governments to request that people wear fabric face masks in public.

Take a look at this helpful page on the Government of Canada website to learn more about masks that offer the best protection during COVID-19. You can also learn about when and how to use masks from on the World Health Organization’s site.

Should I wear a face mask even if I’m not required to?

The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly advises wearing a face mask if you’ve contracted COVID-19 or are caring for someone who is ill. The WHO further advises governments to ask people to wear fabric face masks when out in public to avoid spreading illness.

While not all masks provide the same level of protectiveness, covering your mouth and nose can help prevent moisture from breathing and coughing from traveling too far in the air. According to KK Cheng, a public health expert at the University of Birmingham in the UK, wearing a mask is more for the people around you than for yourself. Says Cheng, “It’s not to protect yourself. It’s to protect people against the droplets coming out of your respiratory tract.”

Which type of mask do I need?

There’s a lot of information out there about when and where to wear a mask and what type of mask you need for various situations. Use this quick guide to help you decide which kind of face mask best fits your needs.

Mask typeWho’s it best for?DescriptionHow long does it last?
N95, KN95 respirator masks

N95 respirator mask

Healthcare workersBlocks at least 95% of airborne particles when worn properly. Adheres to government testing regulations.Can be reused in certain situations, but must be discarded after coming into contact with bodily fluids, infected patients and in other circumstances. Read the CDC’s full reuse guidelines.
Surgical face masks

Surgical mask

People who are sick and caretakersProtects wearers from infecting others. Usually made of 3 layers of melt-blown fabric.Intended to be discarded after every use.
Cloth face masks

Cloth mask

The general population when in a public spaceTypically made from cotton fabric with elastic or tie straps. Some designs have a pocket to place a removable filter.Can be washed and reused for weeks or even months, as long as the material maintains its integrity.
DIY face masks

Man wearing DIY face mask

The general population when in a public spaceCan be homemade using an old T-shirt, bandana, coffee filter or other readily available materials.Depends on the materials used. Most DIY cloth masks can be washed and reused for weeks or even months, as long as the material maintains its integrity.

How to fit your mask properly

When putting a mask on, a tight seal should be created against your nose and mouth. If you’re using a medical mask, follow the instructions provided with your mask for a correct fit. In all cases, test that a seal has been created by exhaling heavily. Air should not escape through any cracks. If a seal hasn’t been created, re-fit and test again.

How to remove your mask properly

First, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before putting on your mask. When you’re ready to take it off, do not touch the front of the mask — it could be contaminated. Instead, remove it by carefully. Put the mask straight into the wash if it is re-usable, or discard it, before washing your hands again.

Where to find fashionable cloth face masks from Canadian designers

Face masks may be temporarily out of stock at many stores due to increased demand. But a number of Canadian retailers – including Ellie Mae, Roots, NONIE, AI Toronto Seoul, Peace Collective and Ottawa Artisans – have been selling fashionable designer cloth face masks, some for a limited time only. Even retailers like the NBA Store and the WNBA Store have jumped on the train.

Many online stores are also selling bulk disposable masks. Certain retailers are even donating a portion of profits to charity, making it easy to give back to others while shopping for what you need. Below are a few examples of designers that sell cloth masks online:

Stephano’s Tailor Shop

Family-owned upscale men and women’s retailer, Stephano’s Tailor Shop, is donating one mask to a local organization for each one sold. Masks cost around $14-$22 and come in a variety of styles for kids and adults.

Kwesia

Kwesia sells reversible cotton face masks in trendy African-prints for $13-$15 each. Multipacks are also available for around $70. Masks can be self-tied around the head or strung behind the ears.

Peace Collective

Toronto-based clothier, Peace Collective, sells trendy yet understated cloth masks with internal filter sheets. Masks come in packs of 2-12 and cost around US$20 to just over US$100. For each pack sold, the company is donating one mask to a frontline worker.

Roots

Buy ruggedly stylish, durable and comfortable face masks from Canadian fashion icon, Roots. Each mask is handmade in Toronto and sells for just over $20. A portion of every sale is donated to The Frontline Fund, a charitable effort created by hospital foundation leaders to provide critical support to hospitals across Canada during COVID-19.

Horses Atelier

Buy colourful print masks from Toronto-based designer Horses Atelier. Packs of 3 are available for around $50, and for each pack sold online, the company will donate to Clean Clothes, an organization that supports efforts to improve working conditions for workers in the global garment industry.

How to make your own cloth face mask

If you have a small swatch of fabric about the size of a napkin, 2 elastics (hair ties or rubber bands will also do the trick), a coffee filter and a pair of scissors, you can easily make your own face mask. No sewing required! Check out our video tutorial below to see how it’s done. Bear in mind that homemade face masks won’t offer the same protection as medical-grade masks.

How to make your own face mask at home

Will a cloth face mask keep me from getting sick?

No. Some masks are made using special materials like polypropylene (a type of plastic) and processes such as melt-blowing that make it difficult for particles to penetrate the materials and enter the wearer’s body. Fabric masks like cotton masks are not similarly made and provide very limited protection against respiratory droplets entering the body.

While not all masks provide the same level of protectiveness, covering your mouth and nose can help prevent moisture from breathing and coughing from traveling too far in the air. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, confirms that wearing both medical and non-medical masks can help prevent illness from spreading.

Dr. Tam says that non-medical masks can be worn “as an additional measure” to protect other people, however these masks have not actually been proven to protect the wearers from getting sick.

In addition to being much cheaper and more readily available than industry-standard masks, homemade masks can serve as a constant reminder to avoid touching your face in accordance with governmental and medical advisories.

If you can find a quality mask at an affordable price, it’s always the better option. However, if you can’t find any in stock or can’t afford to pay inflated prices, a homemade version could be a good alternative.

What’s the difference between a surgical mask and an N95 mask?

Picture not described

What's the difference between a P2, FFP2, KN95 and N95 face mask?

Depending on your location, different face mask types are more widely used. For example, in the United States and Canada, N95 are common; in Australia and New Zealand you'll see P2 masks more often; in China, KN95 is the standard. Mask manufacturer 3M, which specialises in filtering facepiece respirators (FFR) masks, offers the following explanation of the main differences between each mask type.
Certification/Class
N95
FFP2
KN95
P2
Korea 1st Class
DS
Filter performance ≥ 95%≥ 95%≥ 95%≥ 94%≥ 94%≥ 95%
Test agentNaClNaCl and paraffin oilNaClNaClNaCl and paraffin oilNaCl
Flow rate85 L/min95 L/min85 L/min95 L/min95 L/min85 L/min
Total inward leakage (TIL) N/A≤ 8% leakage ≤ 8% leakage ≤ 8% leakage ≤ 8% leakage Inward Leakage measured and included in User Instructions
Inhalation resistance ≤ 343 Pa≤ 70 Pa (at 30L/min)≤ 240 Pa (at 95 L/min)≤ 500 Pa (clogging)≤ 350 Pa≤ 70 Pa (at 30L/min)≤ 240 Pa (at 95L/min)≤ 70 Pa (at 30L/min)≤ 240 Pa (at 95L/min)≤ 70 Pa (w/valve)≤ 50 Pa (no valve)
Flow rate85L/minVaried – seeabove85L/minVaried – seeaboveVaried – seeabove40L/min
Exhalation resistance ≤ 245 Pa≤ 300 Pa≤ 250 Pa≤ 120 Pa≤ 300 Pa≤ 70 Pa (w/valve) ≤ 50 Pa (no valve)
Flow rate85L/min160L/min85L/min85L/min160L/min40L/min
Exhalation valve leakage requirementLeak rate ≤ 30mL/minN/ADepressurization to 0 Pa ≥ 20 secLeak rate ≤ 30mL/minVisual inspection after 300L /min for 30 secDepressurization to 0 Pa ≥ 15sec
Force applied-245 PaN/A-1180 Pa-250 PaN/A-1,470 Pa
CO2 clearance requirementN/A≤ 1%≤ 1%≤ 1%≤ 1%≤ 1%
Source: 3M

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