First things first, while you might think that wearing a facial covering is way to protect yourself from COVID-19, in actuality the CDC recommends the use of face masks to prevent you from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. (A N-95 respirator is considered the most protective mask, but given the scarcity of them, the CDC is only recommending their use for healthcare and frontline workers.)
In terms of fabrics for non-medical-grade options, there is some evidence to suggest that certain materials are better than others; a synthetic fabric blend isn't as effective as cotton. However, if you're set on wearing a gaiter, finding a close-fitting cotton one can be challenging. And how you wear your face covering matters considerably. According to the World Health Organization, it should fit snugly over your nose and mouth without slipping down until you’re ready to take it off. Most gaiters are made of polyester or a polyester/spandex blend since it's stretchier, allowing for a closer fit. To make a gaiter a more effective option, consider doubling up the fabric.
Since masks and gaiters for this purpose should be laundered after each use, choose one with care instructions that work for you. If you don’t have an accessible washing machine, the CDC recommends soaking face coverings in a bleach solution. And if you doubt you’ll wash your gaiter after every use, consider stocking up on a multipack so you’re not tempted to skimp.
To help you stay safe whether you're headed to the grocery store or out on a bigger mission, here are three of the best neck gaiters (sometimes advertised as a buff).
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