Three layers in one – the comfort conundrum

Let’s be honest, none of us really want to wear a face covering at all, but we know it’s essential in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19, protecting ourselves and others from the virus.


Acknowledging this truth puts comfort and wearability at the top of the list when it comes to choosing a face covering. No matter how safe a design may be, if a face covering is sweaty, uncomfortable or hard to breathe through, people simply won’t wear it. We’ve all seen the individuals skirting the rules, wearing their face coverings as ‘chin straps’ until someone spots them in a shop, when they quickly pull their mask into place – not a particularly good scenario for helping to stop the spread!


Naturally, the first reusable community face coverings were modelled after disposable surgical masks. Effective in medical situations, these masks were designed with three layers of different materials:


  1. A soft inner layer that touches the face
  2. A middle filtering layer
  3. An outer waterproof layer to protect against fluid and water droplets


The premise makes sense – an effective face covering needs to absorb water droplets as we exhale, to filter out bacteria, and to repel any droplets and moisture from the outside. But these masks were designed to be worn for surgeries and medical procedures and then disposed of immediately, not to be re-used or worn for trips to the shops, into town or in non-medical working environments. Are they effective? Yes, but not necessarily comfortable or practical for day to day wear.


With comfort and sustainability in mind, ISKO Vital+ asked the question - what if all of these requirements could be met with a single layer of material, rather than three? Fewer fabric layers would translate to easier breathing, less sweatiness and greater comfort for the wearer, without compromising on safety or quality, so we went to work to design a different kind of re-usable face covering.


It’s all in the weave

We knew from our work with medical compression fabrics that by weaving organic cotton rather than knitting it, we could create a higher density material designed to stop infection particles, but allow for breathing comfortably.


Using this denser weaving process meant our face coverings could still have the comfort of organic cotton, but without the need for an additional layer to filter out bacteria. And by adding fluid repellent to the material, we could keep fluid and water droplets from getting in – just run the outside of your ISKO Vital+ face covering under a tap and you’ll see what we mean; the water slides right off!


In short, the answer to our question is yes – the safety features that once required three layers of fabric can indeed be achieved in a single layer, creating a reusable, washable community face covering in line with medical and safety standards. And our Supreme face coverings have the extra protection of Sanitized® incorporated into the yarn at the start of the process to provide additional antimicrobial protection.


Single layer face coverings can be worn comfortably for long periods of time, which translates to more people wearing them – and keeping them on. While face coverings cannot stop the spread of the virus alone, having comfortable, safe and affordable options available go a long way toward controlling it.