With different types of disposable and reusable face masks on the market, do you know what the best options are to protect you and others from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the differences between them?

At the time of writing, the UK government has mandated that people must wear a face covering when travelling on public transport in England. It has also recommended that people wear them when out in public where social distancing isn’t possible, such as in shops and other confined or crowded spaces. Those exempt from this rule include young children, disabled people and people with breathing difficulties.

This applies to most of us and if it doesn’t already, it will do at some point. Therefore, it makes sense to be prepared by investing in a face mask or covering for when you need one. By wearing a face mask, you will be helping to protect others around you. When they wear one, they will be helping to protect you.

We shed light on the topic by explaining the different types of face masks available and the benefits of using a reusable one over a disposable one.

Types of Face Masks

Let’s start with terminology. Face masks are often referred to as face coverings or cloth coverings. A face covering or cloth covering is one that can easily made at home using any type of fabric or material that covers your face, and this is what the UK government is referring to in their guidance. The advice stipulates that a cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose whilst allowing you to breathe comfortably.

Many homemade face coverings are defined as face masks but technically, face masks tend to be professionally manufactured.

There are two main types of face masks that help protect against viruses such as COVID-19:

  1. Surgical Masks – non-medical face masks or coverings generally made using fabric. These are normally loose fitting and comfortable to wear.
  2. Medical Masks – respiratory masks (such as N95) which offer the highest level of protection and are designed for use by healthcare professionals. These are tight fitting, uncomfortable, and typically contain a filter.

In this post, we deal with the subject of surgical non-medical masks – those that are to be worn by the general public and not frontline healthcare professionals. Medical masks are in short supply and therefore need to be reserved for those that need them most.

Let’s have a look at some of the key benefits of using a reusable face mask over a disposable one:

1. Eco-Friendly

Using a reusable face mask made from organic cotton fabric and biodegradable elastic means that not only is the production of the materials sustainable, but once the mask comes to the end of its long life, it will break down into the environment, leaving no trace.

Compare this with disposable face masks, which are used only once and typically made from and packaged in plastic. These might break up into smaller pieces eventually over years, but they never truly break down. Plus, the manufacturing methods can damage the environment, not to mention that most are shipped from China, adding to the planet’s carbon footprint.

Investing in a reusable face mask is the most sustainable option of all.

2. Saves Money

If you need to wear a disposable face mask every time you go out, you may get through a lot in a short space of time, particularly as the general guidance is to change your mask at least twice a day. A quick price check on Amazon lists packs of disposable masks for around 30 pence per mask.  Six months of wearing two disposable face masks everyday would likely cost you over £100 a month.

Compare that with £8 for an adult-sized reusable face mask and the sums speak for themselves!

3. Lasts Longer

Most disposable face masks are thin and made from poor quality fabric. This means they may not provide adequate protection for others and may increase the risk of transmission of viruses like COVID-19.

Reusable products are designed to last, and a reusable face mask will last as long as it is looked after. Wash on a standard washing cycle regularly to maintain face mask hygiene.

4. Comfortable

Most disposable face masks contain elastic that is designed to fit behind the ears, making them uncomfortable and sometimes painful to wear.

Some handmade fabric masks also fit in this way but can be made to feel less uncomfortable with a headband and sewed on buttons or other creative hacks. Our reusable face masks contain elastic that fits around the head rather than the ears, making them comfortable to wear for long periods.

5. Support Independent Businesses

Disposable face masks are typically manufactured in factories, usually the other side of the world and sold by large corporations.

Small businesses, on the other hand, need your help more than ever right now to stay alive so try to shop at ethical, independent shops that value more than just profits. When you buy handmade, you know that product is unique and that you’re helping creators to keep their craft skills alive and kicking. Besides, the designs that are available by handmade creators are so much more attractive. If you’re going to have to wear one, you may as well look awesome!

So, there we have it – our top 5 benefits of using a reusable face mask over a disposable one. There are lots of handy templates online if you’re a dab hand at the sewing machine and want to create your own DIY face mask.

If you would like to buy a handmade reusable face mask, we’re offering a 10% discount to readers of this blog post on all our face masks for a limited time (until 30th June 2020). This includes our reusable biodegradable and reusable cotton face masks. Simply enter MASKBLOG10 at checkout to receive your discount.

It’s important to have in mind that face masks alone won’t protect against the virus. Hand hygiene, especially washing or sanitising hands before putting on your mask and taking it off, is crucial to avoid contamination of your mask.

If you want to find out more about face masks in the context of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides some useful FAQs on the topic.

How have you found wearing a face mask in public?


Note that this article is not written by a medical expert and is not based on scientific evidence. It is, however, an interpretation based on research such as that provided by the UK government and World Health Organization (WHO) and is designed to provide helpful information to the general public on the use of face masks.

The Jolly Turtle supplies eco-friendly bespoke and pre-packed kits for events, travel, hospitality, and lifestyle, offering a simple and convenient way to shop for all your plastic-free essentials. 

So far, we’ve had pretty unpredictable summer weather. One day it’s stormy and the next it can be blazing hot sunshine.