Frequently asked questions:

How do I put my mask on?

There is a top and bottom, and a front and back. Here’s how you figure out which is which.

The top has some bendable metal in it. Once the mask is on your face, you pinch this metal area to bend it around your nose and comfortably fit against your nose and skin. You’ll know you have it right-side up if, when you look in the mirror while wearing it, the pleats on the front are pointing down (and they’d be pointing up on the inside).

The front is made of cotton, while the back (part facing your mouth) is a Pellon-like softer material. It can be hard to see, but in good light you will see a lighter colored thin fabric, sort of like a dryer sheet. The exterior with the cotton also has the pleats pointing down, while they are pointing up on the interior with the Pellon-like material, so if you found the metal area for your nose to identify which way is up, you can also use that to determine which side is the exterior from the direction the pleats are pointing. We hope to produce a diagram soon to show all the areas of the mask.

How do I contact you and where are you located?

You can contact us by email at markcronan@academicapparel.com. We’re located at 20644 Superior Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311, USA. You can make arrangements to pick up your items instead of having them shipped, but please email us in advance. You can also call us toll-free at (800) 626-5000, and dial zero.

What are your sterilization procedures for the face masks?

We’ve taken many steps to maintain a clean environment to reduce the risk of contamination of our masks. We have reduced our production down to a skeleton crew, wear masks, distance, sanitize surfaces, hand wash, take every employee’s temperature, and interview each employee every morning. We make sure nobody has, or has had, any other known issues or been near anyone who has.

All employees wear a face mask and gloves at all times. Work surfaces are sprayed frequently with cleaning liquid and wiped down with new paper towels. All materials used come from a clean secured environment. All handling of materials is done with care.

Once each cloth mask is made, it’s placed in a bin on a clean cloth (disposed of every day), and then pressed with a heavy, industrial steam press at high temperatures. This process should help sterilize the mask. From there it is placed in a separate clean bin, with it’s own clean cloth, until it is carefully placed in a plastic bag. Care is taken, after pressing, to not touch the mask unnecessarily – only enough to slip it into the bag. The bag is then heat sealed and ready for shipping.

Have you consulted with professionals on face mask construction?

We have done our best to consult with a wide array of pros on how to best make a mask given the materials at our disposal. We’ve given samples of our masks to local facilities and received feedback from them and made changes to our design based on that feedback. We’ve consulted online with a variety of other manufacturers in the field, and even gotten some feedback from a microbiologist.

We’ve tried to balance the two key factors in washable masks – breathability vs filtration. As filtration goes up, breathability goes down. Breathability isn’t just a comfort issue – if the material isn’t sufficiently breathable, air is forced to exchange out the sides of the mask, reducing filtration.

To address both issues, we’ve included a high-quality cotton outer layer that has good breathability, and a Pellon-like inner layer which should have good filtration. This is the best combination we’ve found, after about 12 prototypes made from a variety of materials and designs.

This mask is a standard cloth mask. We wish we could make higher levels of filtering masks but we do not have the materials or expertise available for that highest level mask, and they’d go to professionals anyway. This type of mask is of the “pretty good” quality for everyday use walking around and going to the store. It’s not intended for intentional direct contact with someone who you know has a known issue.

If I wear this mask, can I still get ill?

Yes. The mask isn’t 100% effective, it just helps reduce some risks when used properly, and helps reduce the risk of you spreading illness yourself.

In fact one advantage of the mask is just serving as a reminder to not touch your face. That might seem silly, but it really does help some people to remember to not touch their face when they wear a mask.

Some other important steps you should take include washing your hands frequently, not touching your face, not touching your eyes or nose or mouth, trying to stay at least six feet away from others, and not coming in contact with people who you know have an illness or any surfaces they’ve touched. But even with all those things, your risk level will not be 0%.

How should I care for my face mask?

Based on the information we could find, we suggest the following.

Try and keep your hands off the front of the mask and handle it from the sides. Particularly when removing your mask, do not touch the front of the mask because that’s where particles are collected. If you touch the front, you will get those particles on your hand, defeating the purpose of the mask.

You should hand wash your mask every day in detergent or soap. No really, every day after you use it. Before first use as well. We know it’s easy to just set it down and then re-use it the next day. But you really should hand wash it every day after use, because particles will collect on the exterior. If you re-use your mask too often without washing it, it can be worse than wearing no mask at all. So, wash it. Please.

Just hand washing it in soap or detergent and warm to hot water and letting it air dry should be enough to clean the mask. We put it in some hot water along with a dime-sized drop of laundry detergent and let it soak for an hour or so before hanging it to air dry. However, if you want to be extra cautious, you can then dry it in the dryer. But just know if you do put it in the dryer, you’re going to reduce its number of uses. Dryers may damage the masks and we don’t recommend it.

Dryers tend to get up around 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which should be sufficient to kill any anything on them (we’ve read the optimal range is between 140 and 155 degrees). Dryers can even get as high as 176 degrees on the highest setting. Higher temperatures can risk melting the plastic that surrounds the metal nose piece, however, and increasing the temperature beyond standard dryer ranges is not recommended. Plus, the front of the mask is made of cotton. If you crank the heat, it will shrink. Do not put your mask in a pressure cooker. That would melt the plastic for sure. But again, we don’t recommend a dyer at all. You should hand wash the mask for the greatest number of uses.

My mask is too tight, what should I do?

We’ve heard a fair amount of feedback on fit. We’ve settled on around 7.5″ for each side of elastic (we tried 8″ for a while, but then it was too big on some people – and too big is worse than too small because you want your mask to fit tighter to your face so you’re breathing through the mask and not out the sides). For many people, the 7.5″ is often a good fit. If however it feels too tight and is bending your ears down, we’ve found that you can stretch the elastic by hand to give it a better fit. Try not to pull it directly from the mask however. It’s best to take the elastic in both hands and lightly stretch it between your hands, rather than putting pressure on the seam where the elastic attaches to the mask. With some work you should be able to adjust the elastic to fit better.

Air is coming out of the top of the mask and fogging up my glasses

We’ve included two pieces of metal (encased in plastic, sewn into the top of the mask) to close the mask across your nose. Pinch those until you get a better fit across your nose. You may still occasionally get some fogging on your glasses, particularly in colder weather, but the metal should help reduce that issue.

My cloth mask wore out, can I get a replacement or refund?

Once you’ve used your mask, we cannot accept any refunds or replacements. However, if your mask has some unusual manufacturing defect, we can send you a replacement.

My hospital or company wants to buy bulk face masks. Do you offer wholesale discounts?

Send an email to markcronan@academicapparel.com and we will see if we can work something out.

I had some other issue not addressed on this page.

This page was put together pretty quickly to address the high demand for these face masks. You can check out our main company page at https://www.academicapparel.com/ and try the FAQ and other resources there for additional information.