It is now mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport and in shops in England. Face coverings will be compulsory in more indoor spaces from 8 August including cinemas, museums and places of worship. Full advice on our masks hub here.
Some sellers will charge prices far above the average, also known as “price gouging”. We encourage consumers to compare options before making a purchasing decision.
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The UK government have stipulated that members of the public should wear face coverings in shops and on public transport. The aim of this is to prevent people who have the virus but are not experiencing symptoms from passing it on to others. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland give their own advice on such restrictions. Face coverings are already enforced in shops and on public transport in Scotland. In Wales and Northern Ireland mask-wearing is recommended for enclosed spaces such as shops or public transport.
If you are interested in buying a cloth or surgical mask for personal use while also maintaining social distancing and sensible handwashing measures, we’ve gathered up the best places to buy them in the UK.
Where to buy cloth and cotton face masks and reusable face coverings online
We’ve scoured our favourite UK retailers to bring you this list of our top 16 stores that have cloth and cotton reusable face masks for sale. Lots of these retailers offer free and fast delivery and you can combine your mask purchase with the rest of your online shopping!
While a cloth mask won’t guarantee the same level of effectiveness as an N95 or FFP3 mask with a valve, the cloth is there to prevent moisture from breathing and coughing from travelling too far in the air. According to KK Cheng, a public health expert at the University of Birmingham, “It’s not to protect yourself. It’s to protect people against the droplets coming out of your respiratory tract.” Wearing a cloth mask can at least help you from spreading the virus to others. As you look for masks online, be wary of scams. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to equipment shortages, especially N95 masks. Some unscrupulous sellers are selling fakes to try to profit from the situation.
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 pulling the bottom strap over the back of your head, followed by the top strap. Discard the mask, and then wash your hands.
Should the public wear cloth and cotton face masks?
The UK government has told the public in England they must wear face coverings in shops and on public transport. However, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty emphasises the importance of using DIY face coverings, homemade cloth masks or scarves, instead of buying medical or surgical masks, which are needed in healthcare settings.
Are cloth and cotton masks effective?
Once again, experts are split on this subject. While they generally agree that cloth masks are not as effective as an N95 or KN95 mask, some believe wearing one can at least hinder an infected person from spreading the virus.
In its “Our Plan to Rebuild” document, published 11 May, the UK government stated: “Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances. Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.”
What are “ear-savers”, how do I make them and can I donate them to the NHS?
Ear savers are designed to relieve the strain on the ears of nurses and doctors that are required to wear face masks for a long period of time. Ear savers can be made from either headbands with buttons sewn to each side, or from a piece of plastic that fits behind a persons head to take the pressure off ears. Designs can be found online to make your own or you can purchase them from crafters on platforms like Etsy.
Although currently no face masks are stocked by Amazon themselves or available for Prime delivery, there are several sellers on Amazon with available stock of masks.
Does Boots sell face masks?
Yes, Boots now carries a stock of disposable, 3 ply surgical-style face masks.
Does Sainsbury’s sell face masks?
Yes, Sainsbury’s now stocks disposable face masks so you can pick up a packet with your next food shop.
Does Asda sell face masks?
Yes, Asda is now selling small packs of disposable face masks that you can pick up with your weekly shop!
Does Tesco sell face masks?
Yes, Tesco is also now stocking face masks so you can get your hands on them while doing your normal shop.
Does Superdrug sell face masks?
Yes, Superdrug now carries stock of disposable, 3 ply surgical-style face masks as well as reusable cloth face coverings.
What is Masks4All and does it apply to the UK?
Masks4All, also known by the hashtag #Masks4All or Masks For All, is a campaign group that strongly believes in using homemade cloth and cotton face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Masks4All website has helpful instructional videos for those looking to make their own reusable face masks to wear when out in public.
Yes, both masks are reusable as long as the wearer washes the mask appropriately after each use.
Cloth masks have the added benefit of being reusable and washable, compared to surgical, disposable masks. Not only are cloth masks more environmentally-friendly for this reason, not having to replace them constantly could save you money! When to replace your mask depends on the quality of your cloth or cotton mask and how often it has been used or washed. If you bought the cloth mask online, follow the instructions for washing provided. We would recommend getting yourself a fresh, new mask when it starts to feel worn or the elastic is no longer as strong.
To clean your cloth or cotton masks, use a washing machine as normal and ensure the temperature is at least 30 degrees. Then, let it dry overnight before using it again.
It has been suggested that N95 and FFP3 masks should be reserved for healthcare and NHS workers, but members of the public are able to wear surgical masks or homemade cloth masks if they feel it necessary.Type 2 face masks are medical face masks made up of a protective 3 ply material that prevents large particles from reaching the wearer. They are not effective when blood or bodily fluids are present, however. They are usually designed in a pleat style with ear loops or ties.
Face masks are mandatory on public transport throughout the UK. How much you will be charged for not wearing a mask depends on the region you are in. In England, the British Transport Police will charge you £100 on the spot of you do not wear a face mask on public transport and continue to disobey the rules. This fine can double with each office up to £3,200.
In Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, travel will be forbidden for those not wearing a mask. Police or environmental health officers can also issue a fixed penalty for breaches of these requirements. A first offence is punishable by a penalty of £60 (which doubles for each subsequent offence up to a maximum of £1920).
Those exempt from wearing face masks include:
Children under the age of 11.
People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering without experiencing “severe distress”.
Individuals with physical or mental disabilities.
People who communicate with others through lip-reading.
Those who are “travelling to avoid injury, or to escape risk of harm, and do not have a face covering on them”.
Individuals needing to remove their face coverings while taking medication.
You don’t have to carry anything to prove that you don’t need to wear a face mask, but if you want to have something you can show, the UK government has cards you can print or display on your smartphone.
Georgia-Rose is a publisher at Finder.com and specialises in all things shopping and travel. She has years of experience working in retail and tourism and as an avid budget traveller, she loves helping people find the best deals on everything from plane tickets to sunglasses.
When she's not jetting off somewhere new you'll find her watching cake videos or befriending stray cats.
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