Best Face Masks Made by Canadian Brands


Ashley Tonkens

Last Updated:

Health

Face masks are mandatory inside public places and an important ‘piece of the puzzle’ when it comes to preventing the spread along with hygiene, social distancing, proper ventilation, isolation and limiting gathering sizes.

They can be uncomfortable, unattractive and inconvenient, but they don’t have to be.

There are a wide variety of Canadian-made mask options available that meet Public Health recommendations, fit comfortably around your face and ears and look great and fashionable at the same time.

Oh, and don’t forget to leave an extra 1 or 2 in the car in case you forget yours at home.

What to consider when looking for a face mask

Public Health Agency of Canada recommendations

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends wearing face masks with at least 3 layers: 2 of which should be tightly woven fabric such as cotton or linen with a filter-type layer between them.

It should also be large enough to cover your nose, mouth and chin without gaping and be securely fastened to your head with ear loops or ties.

It should be be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty.

They should still be breathable and allow adequate airflow.

Filters

Filters provide an additional layer of protection that can trap microscopic airborne liquid particles known as aerosols as well as the larger respiratory droplets that can also be caught by the 2 standard woven layers.

Current evidence suggests that the main way it spreads is by respiratory droplets which fall to the ground quickly, but that the smaller aerosols may linger in the air under some circumstances which can result in transmission – particularly in buildings with poor ventilation. Masks filters are especially important as we spend more time indoors during the winter months.

They can be made of:

  • Non-woven polypropylene which is washable and used in both N95 and medical masks
  • Craft fabric
  • Non-woven reusable shopping bag
  • Disposable filter
  • Folded paper towel
  • Dried out baby wipe

Plastic films, coffee filters are not good filter material as they may restrict your ability to breathe. Disposable filters should be replaced daily.

Most existing 2-layer masks can be converted into 3-layers by by ripping out the seams and placing a filter material inside.

Fit

Masks that fit well limit the amount of respiratory droplets that escape out of the top and sides and can help prevent the spread of your droplets to others. They may also help protect you from the respiratory droplets of others. Most of your breath should be going through the mask – not around it.

Masks should be comfortable enough to be worn for long periods without the need for frequent adjustments as touching the outside of the mask may increase the risk.

Some masks are secured by ear loops, while others use ties behind the head. Ones that tie can be fastened more snugly, but some people prefer the ear loops because they’ve got more give and are quicker to take on and off. In the end, it’s important to get one that you’ll be willing to wear.

Glasses

The colder the weather gets, the more likely the warm air you exhale will fog up your glasses. To prevent this, look for a mask with an adjustable nose bridge. The metal wire along the top edge can be moulded to your nose and cheeks to prevent air from blowing upward onto your glasses. For homemade masks, you can add a pipe cleaner.

Using anti-fog wipes or putting a small amount of dish soap on your lenses and wiping it away with a paper towel or rinsing and letting them air dry will leave behind a film that helps prevent fog from building up. You can also try pulling up your mask and placing your glasses overtop to help press the mask to your face. If that still doesn’t work, try placing a small strip of medical tape along the top of the mask.

Surgical and N95 masks are better than cloth masks at preventing fog build up.

Durability

Your mask should hold its shape after washing and drying and be strong enough to withstand daily washes.

Stitching should be tight and consistent and not broken or missing.

While they can cost quite a bit more upfront, reusable face masks can be washed multiple times and help reduce waste.

Style

Safety first, fashion second.

Once the practical criteria are met, you’re free to find the coolest, trendiest or most fashionable mask – one that best fits your look and personality, whether it’s designer, a pop culture reference or simply a colourful pattern. Masks cover a large portion of our face which hinders communication through facial expressions, but they can still be a form of self-expression.

Best face masks available in Canada

Best overall: Devon + Lang

  • Materials: 90% modal, 8% spandex, 2% silver-ion fabric – Inner Layer: 85% modal, 8% alginate fiber, 7% spandex.
  • Layers: 3 – 2 layers of anti-bacterial silver infused modal fibre and a replaceable 5 layer carbon filter.
  • Nose wire: Available
  • Sizes: S, M, L
  • Designed in Calgary, AB

Devon + Lang’s reusable cloth masks have 3 layers of filtration. 2 layers of anti-microbial silver infused modal fibre and a replaceable carbon filter, our mask will help filter particles from the air you breathe in, and reduce the spread of particles you breathe out. They are still filtering 86% of the particles in the air, but doing so with an even more comfortable fabric.

Available in 3 colors, there are 3 sizes to choose from – small, medium and large. The masks are $15, and Devon + Lang is donating 20% of their mask profits to The COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Best with nose wire and filter pocket: Vistaprint

  • Materials: 100% polyester, elastic straps: 80% nylon, 20% spandex
  • Layers: 2 + filter pocket (filters sold separately 10 for $13)
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: Kids, Adult
  • Over 200 designs to choose from

Vistaprint masks are comfortable, high-quality, made to last, and available for the whole family. The outer layer is a polyester and spandex blend, while the inner layer is pure cotton. Features that make these masks so desirable are the replaceable filter pocket, the bendable nose bridge, the 3D chin design, and the adjustable ear straps. Each mask costs $25.

Best bulk masks: FashionbyYoshi

  • Materials: cotton, bamboo
  • Layers: 2 + filter pocket
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: Adult, Kids
  • Produced in Vancouver

FashionbyYoshi is a family-owned clothing manufacturer based in Vancouver that started making masks instead of clothes for the pandemic and sells through Etsy. They have beautifully printed masks in dozens of colours that sell for $14.99 a piece, but you can also buy bulk quantities in units of 100 to 1,000 for $10 each. The masks are double layered and made from a soft, comfortable, stretchy fabric, and they can be reused after machine washing.

Best bulk disposable masks: 72Hours

  • Materials:
  • Layers: 3
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: 1
  • Canadian retailer

72Hours is selling bulk disposable non-surgical masks for $39.99 per box of 50 masks. The masks are 3-ply polypropylene, and are designed to be lightweight and breathable. They have a bendable nose bar, and attach to your head with soft latex-free elastic ear loops.

Soren Custom

  • Materials: 100% cotton outer shell, bamboo fibre inner “filter”
  • Layers: 2 + 1
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Toronto designer

Best masks made in Canada

Best overall – Bring Your Own Mask (BYOM)

  • Materials: Lightweight, soft fabric
  • Layers: 3
  • Nose wire: Optional
  • Sizes: Adult, Kids
  • Canadian made

BYOM’s masks are machine washable and feature a wide variety of fine art and graphic designs to choose from – many from Canadian artists such as the Jelly Bean Hill by Darlene Kulig (above) which features the warmth and beauty of the landscape in The Battery, St. John’s. Most options donate some of the proceeds to causes such as the Artist Fund, Daily Bread Food Bank or Saugeen Memorial Hospital Fund.

The stitching of the mask is secure and feels sturdy and the inner polypropylene filter layer is comfortable to wear against your face. The ear bands are elasticated and are of average thickness. The mask fits well, but as with many other options it does not have a nose wire which allows some of the air your breathe out to escape upwards. Update: They can add a nose wire for custom orders but it minimizes the number of times it can be machine washed.

Best mask for kids – Peace Collective

  • Materials: 100% cotton
  • Layers: 2 + 1 disposable filter sheet
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: Adult, Kids
  • Spongebob, Sesame Street, Paw Patrol designs

Peace Collective masks for kids are handmade in Toronto. You get 2 for $30, and they’re available in black or maroon. The 2-layer masks are made from 100% cotton, and they have a nose wire to help ensure a snug fit, plus soft elastic ear loops that minimize discomfort. For every pair of masks they sell, Peace Collective donates a mask to SickKids Foundation.

Tristan Style

  • Materials: 65% Polyester, 35% Spandex, Lining: 100% Cotton
  • Layers: 2 + filter pocket
  • Nose wire: Optional
  • Sizes: One-size
  • Many are made in Canada

Narces

  • Materials: 100% Woven Polyester or Organza or Taffeta
  • Layers: 2 + filter pocket
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: One-size (M)

TakeCare Supply

  • Materials: 100% cotton
  • Layers: 3 + filter pocket
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: One-size
  • Head bands, not ear loops.

The Peoples Mask

  • Materials: 100% cotton inside, 100% Polyacetate outside, 100% cotton inner pocket
  • Layers: 2 + filter pocket – PM 2.5 melt blown carbon filter included
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: S/M, M/L
  • Fits firmly. Head straps, not ear loops.

ATELIER UNTTLD

  • Materials: 100% cotton lining, 100% polyester outside
  • Layers: 2 + 100% polypropylene
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: S, M
  • Adjustable satin strings

Best custom personalized face masks: Handsome and Lace

  • Materials:
  • Layers: 3
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: Kids, XS, S, M, L, Beard
  • Custom image or logo

MOJi

  • Materials: 100% premium cotton or linen
  • Layers: 2 + filter pocket
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: One-size, Small/Regular

Ellie Mae

  • Materials: 100% cotton deadstock fabric
  • Layers: 2 + filter pocket (filters sold separately 10 for $7)
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: One-size
  • Sewn in Toronto

Best mask designs – Hayley Elsaesser

  • Materials: Cotton
  • Layers: 2
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: One-size
  • Toronto designer

Toronto-based fashion designer Hayley Elsaesser is making fun and creative masks for $25. They’re available in a wide array of kooky patterns, including scorpions, bananas, bugs, cartoon mouths, eyes, and more. The masks are made from a quilted Jersey knit, and 20% of mask sales is being donated to the Food Banks Canada COVID-19 Response Fund.

Best linen mask – Hoi Bo

  • Materials: 100% Linen, 100% Cotton lining
  • Layers: 2
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Made in Toronto

18 Waits

  • Materials: 100% Cotton
  • Layers: 2
  • Nose wire: Yes
  • Sizes: One-size

Best bamboo face mask: Olive + Splash

  • Materials: 100% Cotton
  • Layers: 2
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: S/M, M/L

Joseph Tassoni

  • Materials: 78% Nylon 22 % Spandex
  • Layers: 2
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: Petite, Standard, Beard

Horses Atelier

  • Materials: 100% cotton, 100% polyester, 100% silk or 100% linen
  • Layers: 2
  • Nose wire: No
  • Sizes: One-size

How to make a 3-layer face mask with filter pocket?

Hand sew method

No-sew method

You can make your own cloth face masks at home in minutes using nothing more than some fabric, an elastic band, and a pair of scissors.

Health Canada’s 3-layer no-sew t-shirt and fabric square tutorials

  1. Cut the bottom off an old t-shirt about 18 to 20 cm from the bottom so you have a continuous ring of fabric
  2. Cut 2 x 20 cm horizontal lines: 1 cm below the top edge and 1 cm above the bottom edge of the fabric
  3. Make a vertical cut to remove a 5 cm portion off the end of the middle flap created by the previous 2 cuts
  4. Snip the ends of the top and bottom 1 cm thick rings to create the tie strings.
  5. Lie the fabric flat and place the filter or filter fabric in the centre
  6. Fold the left and right middle flaps inward over top of the filter
  7. Put the 3-layer mask on by tying the top string above your ears and bottom string around your neck

How do I use a face mask properly?

The Canadian government has published a video on how to wear a non-medical mask properly.

Fitting and putting on a face mask

A mask should be large enough to cover your mouth and nose, but not so large that it blocks your vision or gets in the way of activities. The mask should also fit securely, and there shouldn’t be gaps or spaces between the mask and your skin, especially under your chin or around your mouth and nose. Some masks have a copper band or wire ribbon around the nose area to ensure a snug fit.

Here are the steps for putting on a mask properly:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds
  2. Check the mask for holes
  3. Place the mask over your mouth and nose
  4. Pull the loops behind your ears, or tie the strings behind your head
  5. Adjust the mask so it covers your mouth, nose, and chin
  6. Once the mask is on, try not to touch it

Cleaning a face mask

Current evidence suggests the virus can live on surfaces from a few hours to days. Reusable masks should be washed daily, as soon as they become damp, dirty or frozen, or after you wear it out and return home – especially if you were somewhere that physical distancing was difficult such as:

  • Grocery store
  • Public transportation
  • Doctor’s office
  • Workplace

Disposable filters should be replaced daily.

To remove the mask, don’t touch the mask itself. Instead, untie it or remove the ear loops and hold the mask by the ties or loops. If the mask has a disposable filter, remove it and throw it out before washing the mask.

Store soiled masks in a secure, waterproof bag or container until they can be washed. The easiest way to wash your mask is to throw it in the washing machine with your other laundry. Dry the mask in the dryer, or hang it to air dry.

To wash the mask by hand, you can use tap water and laundry detergent or soap. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove detergent or soap.

How do face masks work?

The virus is spread through respiratory droplets. When an infected person exhales, coughs, sneezes, or even talks, they expel respiratory droplets that can be contaminated with the virus.

You can get sick when you come in contact with these droplets, by touching an infected surface, by coming into physical contact with an infected person, or by being too near an infected person who has coughed or sneezed.

Face masks help prevent the spread of the virus by preventing infected respiratory droplets from getting into the air or contaminating physical surfaces.

When should I wear a mask?

You should wear a non-medical mask or face covering when:

  • you’re in public and you might come into close contact with others
  • you’re in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household
  • you have underlying medical conditions
  • when and where advised by your local public health authority

If you’re sick or someone at home is sick, you should also wear a mask at home when you’re around other people or around animals.

Masks should not be worn by kids under the age of 2. Between the ages of 2 and 5, depending on their ability to tolerate and take it off, they may be able to wear a mask while being supervised.

Do I have to wear a mask?

Wearing a mask isn’t mandated federally, but it is recommended — in conjunction with social distancing measures and good hygiene — to help slow the spread of the virus. This applies to anybody over the age of 2 who doesn’t have breathing difficulties.

At the recommendation of public health officials, many municipalities across Canada have passed mandatory mask by-laws that require masks to be worn while inside indoor public places. These recommendations are typically based on rates of infection and/or transmission in the community

Check with your local government or public health authority on the requirements for your location. It doesn’t hurt to keep a spare mask in the car.

You can wear a mask any time you’re out of the house, but it’s especially important when you’re around other people in a crowded place and can’t always maintain the recommended 2 m distance between yourself and others. This includes when you are:

  • Grocery shopping
  • Picking up medications at the pharmacy
  • Using public transportation
  • Visiting retail stores
  • Picking up food from a restaurant  

Why have recommendations changed?

At the beginning of the outbreak, Canadians were told that it wasn’t necessary to wear a mask to flatten the curve and that medical masks should be reserved for health care workers.

In early April 2020 it was discovered that infected individuals can transmit the virus when they’re asymptomatic, especially in the early stages of infection and could amount to between 40 and 80% of transmission. The Public Health Agency of Canada then updated their recommendations to that Canadians should wear non-medical face masks when out in public.

In early November 2020, the PHAC updated their stance to acknowledge that transmission also can occur via aerosols and therefore masks should include 3 layers instead of 2. The 3rd layer should be a filter-type fabric such as non-woven polypropylene. This is in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

Are there any alternatives to face masks?

Do mouth and face shields count?

Face shields do not replace masks or face coverings.

A face shield is used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. Using a face shield without a mask won’t protect you from potentially inhaling droplets or aerosols that others have exhaled or protect others from those that you exhale as they can get around the face covering.

Do winter scarves, neck warmers or balaclavas count as face coverings?

In general, yes, they’re allowed to be used as face coverings under mask bylaws as they cover your nose and mouth. However, this is not the case everywhere as they do not often meet the requirements of being tightly fitted to the head and being made of a tightly woven material such as linen or cotton – so check your local guidelines.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s health ministry states that scarves and other face coverings may be less effective than non-medical masks. Quebec’s health ministry warns that droplets could pass through the openings in a loose scarf.

Toronto Public Health recommends wearing a face mask underneath if the covering doesn’t cover the mouth, nose or chin without gaps.

Neck gaiters (neck warmers)

Neck gaiters (also known as neck warmers) aren’t recommended because they:

  • aren’t well secured to the head or ears, and are likely to move or slip out of place
  • are difficult to remove without contaminating yourself

If a neck gaiter must be used as a face covering:

  • it should be folded to provide at least 3 layers of fabric and should include a filter or filter fabric added between layers
  • lift it away from your face, especially when taking it off
  • wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer anytime you need to adjust it, especially when putting it on and taking it off

Masks with exhalation valves

Masks with exhalation valves or vents are not recommended. These masks do not protect others from COVID-19 or limit the spread of the virus. This is because they allow respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask.

How effective are non-medical cloth face masks?

Non-medical face masks aren’t as effective as surgical masks, and neither are as effective as N95 respirators. For one thing, cloth masks are all different in terms of material and construction, so they don’t all perform equally. They also don’t create a seal around your face, and aren’t designed to filter and block viruses and pathogens. Again, you wear a mask to protect those around you, not to prevent yourself from getting sick.

That being said, non-medical cloth masks are better than no mask. Cloth masks are a small but important piece of the puzzle in combatting the spread of COVID-19. If everybody maintains social distance, practices good hygiene, stays home when sick, and wears a face mask in public, then we have a much better chance of flattening the curve.

Some fabrics are better than others for cloth face masks, and you definitely want to avoid plastics and non-breathable materials. By contrast, good fabric choices include:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Neoprene
  • Stretchy synthetic fabrics
  • Quilter’s cotton

If you’re going to make your own cloth masks, you can even repurpose household items like pillowcases, T-shirts, tea towels, and scarves to make your masks.

Will a face mask protect me from COVID-19?

Wearing a face mask will not protect you. Rather, it will prevent you from transmitting the virus to somebody else if you’re sick. You wear a mask to protect other people, and other people wear masks to protect you.

For example, if you’re in the grocery store with somebody who’s sick and they’re wearing a mask, that will help stop them from giving you the virus. Therefore, the more people who wear masks, the more we’ll slow the spread.

Would a surgical mask be more effective?

Surgical masks are disposable, single-use, medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) made of a special polypropylene fabric. Like cloth masks, they cover the nose, mouth, and chin, but they don’t form a tight seal with your face. These masks can be very effective — more so than non-medical cloth masks — at protecting the wearer from liquid particles, and to provide some measure of filtration for pathogens and pollutants.

Their main purpose is to protect the wearer from contaminated liquids, including spray, splashes, and larger respiratory droplets. Like cloth masks, they also protect others from the respiratory droplets of the wearer. Also like cloth masks, you can still contract it when you’re wearing a surgical mask.

Surgical masks are in short supply right now, so they aren’t recommended for members of the general population. Instead, reserve them for healthcare workers, and cover your own face with a non-medical cloth mask.

Should I wear a respirator?

Respirators are the next step up in PPE. They are close-fitting, disposable face masks that protect the wearer from fluids and large respiratory droplets. Unlike surgical masks, however, respirators are made from tightly interlaced polypropylene fibres and form a seal with your face, so they’re much better at filtering pathogens and particulates.

Because respirators actually form a seal, they’re also more effective than surgical masks at preventing the spread of diseases. However, that also means they aren’t effective for people with facial hair or children, and you have to remove jewelry before wearing them.

Respirators also have to be fitted properly, because if they don’t form a proper seal, then they aren’t as effective. In medical settings, healthcare workers are fit-tested every year to make sure their masks are protecting them.

There are three types of respirators that are all designed to filter particles between 100 and 300 nanometres (0.1 to 0.3 microns) and they are:

  • N95, which filter 95% of particles
  • N99, which filter 99% of particles
  • N100, which filter 99.7% of particles

Respirators can make breathing harder, so they’re not recommended for people with medical conditions that cause breathing difficulties.

Respirators are a very important piece of PPE for healthcare workers, and because there’s a shortage of them right now, they should be reserved for healthcare workers.

Conclusion

It’s important that all Canadians do our part to flatten the curve. Although it wasn’t always part of our pandemic regimen, wearing a non-medical cloth face mask is now recommended for people going out in public and people who are sick at home.

It’s important to leave surgical masks and respirators for our hard-working healthcare workers, but there are plenty non-medical face masks options out there. Many people have friends and family who are making masks for people in the community, but there are also commercial options on the market, and plenty of online tutorials for making your own.

If everyone participates in social distancing, good hygiene, and masking, Canada can slow the transmission and safely and slowly get back to doing the things we love.

What to read next

References

Over to you

What’s your favourite cloth face mask? Help other Canadians slow the spread by sharing your favourite masks, fabrics, designs, and patterns in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “Best Face Masks Made by Canadian Brands

  1. I would really like recommendations for best masks for people who wear glasses. I noticed that none of the models are wearing glasses.

    Reply
    • Hi Shannon, thanks for your comment. I share this problem too! Look for a mask with an adjustable nose bridge such as the ones from BYOM, Vistaprint and Devon + Lang. The metal wire along the top edge can be moulded to your nose and cheeks to prevent air from blowing upward onto your glasses.

      Using anti-fog wipes or putting a small amount of dish soap on your lenses and wiping it away with a paper towel will leave behind a film that helps prevent fog from building up. You can also try pulling up your mask and placing your glasses overtop to help press the mask to your face. If that still doesn’t work, try placing a small strip of medical tape along the top of the mask.

      Hope this helps.

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