Do you wear a face mask or don’t you? Currently, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers guidance that if you live in a community with medium or high levels of Covid-19, you should continue to wear a well-fitting mask or respirator. Many people now live in an area with low levels of Covid-19 (you can check local levels here). However, you can wear a mask whenever you want, wherever you want. The CDC recommends that you wear them on indoor transportation, and local authorities can require mask wearing too.
A good face mask is a critical tool in helping slow the spread of Covid-19. We’ve been 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. Keep a mask on, but remember to stay at home when possible, increase ventilation in indoor spaces, get tested regularly, and maintain at least a six-foot distance from others in public (preferably outdoors).
How We Pick Masks
The materials-testing organization ASTM International also recently published the first-ever manufacturing standards on what constitutes a good face covering. Based on these guidelines, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health now recommends that if you’re going into the office, you use a mask that meets the ASTM’s minimum Workplace Performance Guidelines.
New guidance and standards mean that it’s now very hard for me to recommend the cloth face coverings that we recommended earlier in the pandemic. It will take time for every mask manufacturer to get their products tested. In the meantime, 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 doing either of those things. Then I wear them while grocery shopping or walking my dog.
We’ve included some tips on mask care and choosing the best kind of mask straps at the end of this list. Be sure to check out our guide to the Best N95, KF94, and KN95 Face Masks, the Best Face Masks for Kids and How to Prevent and Treat Mascne.
Updated August 2022: We updated our guidance to add information about current masking regulations and where to find free masks, and removed picks that are no longer in stock.