We didn’t want it to happen, but it did. Months after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, the organization has again updated its instructions. Now the CDC recommends that even vaccinated individuals continue to wear masks indoors to help mitigate the spread of the much more contagious Delta variant.
If you, like many Americans, cheered and put your box of masks away in May, now is the time to wash and dry them—and perhaps update your stash. A good face mask is a critical tool to help slow the spread of Covid-19. We’ve been building our mask collections, outfitting our kids, and adapting our practices as new, science-based recommendations emerge.
These are some of the masks, and masking practices, that I and other WIRED staff members are using. I’ve also highlighted sustainable options, ones from diverse and small manufacturers, as well as companies donating masks to or sharing profits with worthy causes. Try a few, but remember to keep washing your hands regularly, staying at home when possible, and maintaining at least a 6-foot distance from others in public (preferably outdoors).
How We Evaluate Masks
Earlier this year, the materials testing organization ASTM International finally published the first-ever manufacturing standards on what constitutes a good face covering. It will take time for manufacturers to have their products tested and certified, but soon you should be able to find cloth masks that have been vetted by a third party.
In the meantime, the best thing to do is make sure your mask follows the recommended guidelines from the CDC, fits well, and is clean. A good reusable mask should completely cover your nose and mouth, use at least two fabric layers, and be washable. When I receive a mask, I first use the light and candle test—can I see light through the weave? Can I blow a candle out while wearing it? The mask’s weave should be tight enough to prevent you from doing either of those things. Then I wear them while grocery shopping or walking my dog.
Updated August 2021: We updated with the latest mask recommendations, new picks, and more information on our picks.