The Surprising Secret Feature Hidden in Your Face Mask

That interior pocket in your mask isn't just an added layer of protection—it has a distinct purpose!

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If you're like most people, you've probably been wearing a face mask every time you've left your house in the past two months. Maybe you ordered a homemade mask from Etsy, maybe a friend or family member was kind enough to sew one for you, or maybe you got crafty and created a mask yourself. But as you examine your mask to ensure you're putting it on the right way each and every day, you probably use one defining feature to tell the inside from the outside: the interior face mask pocket. What you may not know, however, is why that pocket is there in the first place.

The pocket in your face mask is actually intended to house a filter—an added material that helps block out aerosol particles that could carry the COVID-19 contagion. Simply put, "filters can boost the effectiveness of DIY face masks," Leilani Fraley, RN, MSN, wrote for Healthline.

closeup of hands holding face mask and putting something into the pocket
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Ideally, you'd want to invest in a multi-layered HEPA filter (which stands for "high-efficiency particulate air"). According to a recent study out of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, this mat of synthetic fibers can make a huge difference when it comes to your face mask's functionality. The Missouri University researchers found that a mask made from a bandanna with no filter only blocked about 10 to 20 percent of aerosol particles. But when they added a HEPA filter, the mask blocked 80 to 90 percent of the particles, which is similar to the effectiveness of an N95 mask.

Though you can order HEPA filters on Amazon, if that isn't an option for you, there are a couple of other possible filters you can put in your face mask pocket to stay safe. Research from the air purifier company Smart Air found that a double layer of paper towel can increase your mask's ability to block out COVID-19 by 33 percent. So try cutting two rectangles of Bounty and sliding it in your face mask pocket. Another option? Coffee filters. The experts at Smart Air found that putting one in your mask's pocket can help capture 62 percent of particles.

So start figuring our your filtration system, and then you'll really be using your face mask to the best of its ability. Just make sure you take the filter out of the face mask pocket before you clean your mask. And for more ways to keep your mask clean, check out the 7 Face Mask Care Mistakes You're Making.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
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