Face Mask Alternatives!

Written by Jo Birch 5th September 2020


Even though I am a Health Professional (Dental Hygienist) and I am used to wearing a surgical mask at work but from 11.59 pm on Sunday 30 August 2020 all people in New Zealand must, unless they have an exemption, wear a mask or face covering on buses, trains, ferries and on all flights at Alert Level 2 and above.


Reusable masks – fabric, washable:

Re-usable fabric masks ideally have three layers of fabric and can be purchased through retail outlets, online at my store: or you can make your own.

The Ministry of Health recommends approximately four fabric reusable (washable) face masks per family member, however you should assess how many you may need.

Disposable masks – including medical grade and non-medical masks

Medical grade masks (also known as surgical masks) form a small part of personal protective equipment (PPE). They are required to conform with Standard AS/NZS 1716:2012 ‘Respiratory protective devices’. They are not reusable.

Non-medical masks do not need to conform to any standard. This means they are not used in medical settings.

Single use, disposable masks can be purchased from retail stores such as supermarkets or pharmacies. Single use, disposable masks for people or communities identified as needing help to obtain these are being supplied by social services agencies and community organisations. 

Face coverings – including headbands, scarves

and bandanas

If you do not have access to masks, face coverings such as a Convertible Headband/Face Covering (check out my website: a bandana or scarf is also a suitable option. If possible, for extra protection fold a scarf three times before tying it

Dust masks – not recommended

Dust masks are not recommended as they have a one-way valve, which would allow droplets to spread if a person coughs or sneezes.

How Face Masks and Face Coverings can help protect you against COVID-19:

Wearing a mask or face covering can reduce the risk of people who have COVID-19 spreading the virus to others.

They may feel well or have no obvious symptoms. A mask or face covering can help stop infectious droplets spreading when they speak, laugh, cough or sneeze. This is referred to as ‘source control’.

See the World Health Organization’s Advice On The Use Of Masks In The Context Of COVID-19 for more information.

Masks and face coverings can be useful if there is known community transmission and people are near each other (less than 2 metres apart). For example, in shops or other confined or crowded environments.

Masks and face coverings are only one part of keeping yourself safe and protecting others

The most important things you can do to protect yourself and others are:

  • hand hygiene

  • physical distancing

  • coughing and sneezing into your elbow

  • regular cleaning of high touch surfaces

  • staying home if you are sick and seek medical advice via your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

The use of a mask or face covering will complement these basic hygiene measures.

Testing and contact tracing also remain critical.


I wear this face mask if I need to go out during public and on public transport just to reduce me accidentally touching my mouth or nose with dirty hands. I have even made a matching Doggy Bandana for my dog Daisy.

Depending on the source, it is commonly accepted that the average person touches their face 16-23 times per hour. That’s a lot of face touching. When wearing my fabric DIY mask or face covering my face touching went down to zero as I would know the second I did it and stop myself. I know that my face mask and convertible headband/face covering will not stop airborne virus particles but feel more comfortable with it than wearing nothing. You may have a different opinion and that’s ok. As more information becomes available I may change my opinion too.


Jo's Reversible, Reusable and Washable Face Masks are the most stylish, versatile and unique masks around.  If you have to wear a mask at least you can look fabulous!