What You Need to Know About Canada’s Three-Layer Face Mask Guideline
Health officials say masks meeting these criteria provide the best protection against COVID-19.
What is the new COVID-19 face mask guideline?
In November, the Public Health Agency of Canada updated its guidelines on non-medical masks and face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, it’s recommended that a mask should be made up of at least three layers—two layers of tightly-woven fabric such as cotton or linen, and a third, middle layer of a filter-type material, like a non-woven polypropylene fabric or a disposable filter. This update comes as health officials learn more about the science of masks and how infectious respiratory droplets move through the air.
What exactly is a non-woven polypropylene fabric?
Polypropylene fabric is a term used to describe any textile formed by heating and cooling a synthetic resin. Why is a layer of this fabric in your mask useful? It doesn’t absorb moisture, which means the droplets that hit this material are repelled and evaporate quickly. It’s also one of the lightest synthetic fibres available and can be found in craft fabrics and reusable shopping bags.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, this non-woven filter layer offers extra protection by trapping small particles. Your mask should be washed daily, and the filter changed just as often (or as directed by the manufacturer).
Can you make your own?
Yes! The Public Health Agency of Canada has three sew and no-sew tutorials demonstrating how to make your own three-layer mask (or check out how to make our DIY face mask—no sewing required!). If you can’t find craft fabric or disposable filters for the third layer, you can also use a folded paper towel. However, this layer shouldn’t interfere with your breathing—don’t use plastic films or pieces of non-breathable plastic.
If you don’t trust your DIY skills, here are a few face mask options currently on the market that meet the new public health guidelines.
Made of soft and stretchy upcycled cotton, bamboo and Tencel fabric leftover from the brand’s loungewear collection, this mask also comes in a children’s size.
Pure Balanxed Adult Fabric Masks, $14.50, purebalanxed.com
An adjustable lightweight nose bridge ensures this mask fits close to your face.
Herschel Classic Fitted Face Mask, $19.99, herschel.ca
For extra breathability, this mask is designed with four layers of lightweight jersey and broadcloth fabric.
Roots Lightweight Reusable Face Mask, $22, roots.com
For those who prefer a pleated mask, this version includes a pocket to accommodate a filter (replacement filters are available in a 10-pack for $7).
Ellie Mae Cotton Face Mask, from $20, elliemaestudios.com
The multi-layer handsewn mask is made in Toronto from 100 percent cotton and includes one disposable filter (replacement filters are available in a 20-pack for $15 or 50-pack for $35).
Peace Collective Face Mask, $30, peace-collective.com
For every mask purchased, this Toronto brand is donating masks to local healthcare institutions.
Narces Mask, $30, narces.com
The shapable nose strip and extendable chin cover of this mask eliminates any gaps.
Mackage Upcycled Face Cover, $40, mackage.com
These three-layer cotton masks are perfect for everyday wear.
Echo Textured Cotton Face Mask, $16, thebay.com
This polyester and organic cotton mask features super-soft elastic ties that go around the head for maximum comfort.
Unbelts Single Mask with Filter, $19, unbelts.ca