Maybe you’re tired of wearing the same old mask. Or, maybe you’re thinking about wearing one for the first time? Wherever you fall on the spectrum, we find an increasing variety of options to choose from.

A quick scroll through your feed reveals more ads for face coverings than ever before. But, how can you know which masks are actually protecting people from COVID and which ones aren’t? A recent article from NPR provides a good overview with helpful insights you can use to evaluate if what you’re currently wearing (or if that new mask with the cool design) is legit or not.

Here’s a quick look at the top elements to look for:

The Fabric

Researchers say a tight-weave 100% cotton is a good bet. That’s because at the microscopic level, the natural fibers in cotton tend to have more three-dimensional structure than synthetic fibers, which are smoother.

Multiple Layers

Several studies have found that masks made of multiple layers are more effective at blocking small particles.

A good option: a mask made of two layers of a tight-weave fabric with a built-in pocket where you can place a filter.

Shape Also Matters

A mask’s ability to filter out particles depends on not just what it’s made out of but how well it seals to your face. When it comes to cloth masks, those that cup tightly to your face are best.

Avoid Masks With Exhalation ValvesĀ 

Some cloth and disposable masks come with an exhalation valve at the front. The valve makes it easier to breathe out, but it also releases unfiltered air, so it doesn’t protect others if you’re contagious. And protecting others is the primary reason to wear a mask.

Keep It Clean

Experts say cloth masks should be washed daily with soap or detergent and hot water. Make sure the mask is completely dry before you reuse it, as a wet mask can make it harder to breathe and can promote the growth of microorganisms.

The article provides more helpful details than this, and also covers information about medical masks, so if you’re looking to buy a mask, check it out.