The Best Cloth and KN95 Face Masks for Kids and Toddlers | Reviews by Wirecutter

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We’ve updated this guide and removed two of our picks, the Harley Children’s HL001, which is discontinued, and the Well Before Kids surgical-style mask, which is out of stock. Slitter Rewinder

The Best Cloth and KN95 Face Masks for Kids and Toddlers | Reviews by Wirecutter

The sight of children in face masks isn’t as common as it was at the height of the pandemic, but there are still some scenarios where kids might want or need to mask up. Masks remain important in doctors’ offices (some may require them for sick patients), for families who choose to wear them while traveling, and if you or your child is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Over the past three and a half years, we’ve looked at more than 100 cloth and disposable masks for kids, pored over scientific studies, talked with health experts and researchers, assessed filtration efficiency in independent lab tests, and tested finalists with a panel of 10 kids, ages 2 to 11.

This machine-washable mask is lightweight and breathable, and it includes an incorporated filter. It was among the best performers in our independent lab test.

This mask has five layers, including a three-ply filter, but it still feels breathable and lightweight. In our independent lab test, it was among the best performers. But it needs to be hand-washed.

This disposable KN95 mask is one of the few available with adjustable ear loops, a helpful feature for achieving a close, comfortable fit.

Though this mask lacks adjustable ear loops, it is one of the cheapest KN95s available.

Our picks have filters capable of blocking both droplet- and aerosol-sized particles.

These masks come in kid-specific sizes, and they fit a range of faces from toddlers to tweens.

Our picks have flexible nose-bridge wires and, in most cases, adjustable ear loops that allow masks to fit snugly and comfortably.

We tested these masks for fit and comfort with 10 kids ages 2 to 11.

The best mask is the one that fits your child securely and comfortably, that offers strong filtration, and that they will wear, experts say. This means that no single mask will work for all kids, and finding the right one for your child may involve a lot of trial and error.

Fortunately, there are now many mask options for kids, including high-performing cloth masks with built-in filters as well as disposable KN95 and surgical-style masks. Our research and testing has allowed us to identify a handful of kids cloth and disposable masks that we think are good options to try, that can be easily ordered online, and that should ship fairly quickly.

If you’re looking for a mask for yourself, check out the advice in our guide to buying N95, KN95, and surgical-style masks. We also have advice on reusing medical masks and how to tell if you have a fake N95, KN95, or KF94 mask.

This machine-washable mask is lightweight and breathable, and it includes an incorporated filter. It was among the best performers in our independent lab test.

If you’re looking for a child’s cloth mask with a built-in filter that can block droplet- and aerosol-sized particles, we recommend the Enro Tech Kids Face Mask. It offers among the best filtration of our picks (filtering about 99% of aerosol-sized particles, assuming a perfect fit), according to the independent lab tests we commissioned. Our kid testers found it to be exceptionally lightweight and well fitting. And it’s machine-washable, a rarity among cloth masks with incorporated filters.

This mask has five layers, including a three-ply filter, but it still feels breathable and lightweight. In our independent lab test, it was among the best performers. But it needs to be hand-washed.

The Happy Masks Pro has an incorporated filter and performed well in our lab tests, filtering about 94% of aerosol-sized particles (assuming a good fit). Though it’s stiffer than most masks we tested, its unique “parrot beak” shape allows the mask to tent up higher off the face than others we’ve tested, and some kids may find this more comfortable. This mask has to be hand-washed, however.

This disposable KN95 mask is one of the few available with adjustable ear loops, a helpful feature for achieving a close, comfortable fit.

The WellBefore Kids KN95 fits kids ages 2 to 12, and it has adjustable ear loops (a rarity among medical-style masks) and a nose-bridge wire. Our lab tests confirmed that it filters about 99% of aerosol-sized particles (assuming a perfect fit). And unlike most medical masks for kids, this one has a few color options.

Though this mask lacks adjustable ear loops, it is one of the cheapest KN95s available.

The Children’s Sized Powecom KN95 offers a fit and shape similar to that of the WellBefore Kids KN95. Unlike the WellBefore, this mask lacks adjustable ear loops, but it does have a nose-bridge wire. We found that it fit testers ages 4 to 10 well, and our lab tests confirmed that it filters about 99% of aerosol-sized particles (assuming a perfect fit).

Child-health experts and public health organizations say that wearing a face covering is necessary in some circumstances to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children ages 2 and older can safely wear a mask. The CDC says the exception is anyone (of any age) who cannot easily remove their own mask or who is having trouble breathing. If you have any concerns about your child’s ability to wear a mask safely, or you have specific considerations for choosing the best mask for your child, talk with your pediatrician. We have suggestions on how to help kids get used to wearing masks, as well as safety considerations for choosing a mask.

This guide focuses on readily available, commercially made cloth and disposable face masks with high filtration designed for kids. We tested masks sized for kids ages 2 through 12. Some of our masks may fit kids 4 and over best, but we have guidance for finding good masks for toddlers too. Older kids, especially teenagers, may find that adult-size masks fit them well. You can also read more about the lab testing we commissioned on our picks, among other topics, below.

We’ve been researching medical-style masks and respirators for months. Here’s what we’re buying.

I’m a science writer with a PhD in cell biology from the University of Pittsburgh, and I’ve written for Undark, Scientific American, Slate, Smithsonian, and more. My husband is an emergency department nurse, and he’s one of a handful in the country who used special CDC training to suit up in full biohazard personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for a potential Ebola patient. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he led PPE fitting and training at the hospital where he worked in Philadelphia. And he traveled to a coronavirus hot spot as a member of a Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team to help manage outbreaks. My husband, who regularly wears a surgical mask or an N95 respirator mask, checked the fit and breathability of each of the kids masks we tested with our then 3- and 6-year-olds. (He didn’t evaluate the masks or fit from a medical standpoint; if parents have questions about fit or choosing a mask for their children, they should ask their pediatrician.)

To learn about how different types and layers of material, as well as filters, can impact a mask’s effectiveness for a child, I spoke with Taher Saif, PhD, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who researches biomechanics and nanomechanics, and who studied various fabrics’ droplet-stopping abilities. I also spoke with Laura Markham, PhD, a parenting expert and psychologist, about ways to encourage children to wear masks. And to find out what pediatricians are recommending, I interviewed American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Jennifer Shu, MD, a pediatrician and author. To better understand protection from aerosol spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, I spoke with aerosol expert Linsey Marr, PhD, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech. In addition to reading research studies on face masks, I browsed extensively online for commercially available kids masks, and I spoke with at least 20 other parents about their experiences with masks for children.

The ideal mask for kids is “one that a child is willing and able to wear for most of the day, put on and remove correctly, and that she won’t be constantly touching,” said Dr. Jennifer Shu, pediatrician and AAP spokesperson. Additionally, for a kids face mask to be comfortable and effective, it needs to fit properly, be made from multiple layers of a breathable material, and be appealing to kids.

Fit is one of the most important factors when choosing a mask, said Virginia Tech engineering professor and aerosol expert Linsey Marr. A properly fitting mask should cover the nose and mouth, be secured below the chin, fit snugly against the sides of the face, and allow the child to breathe easily. It should not have gaps at the nose, cheeks, or under the chin.

Cloth masks come in three styles: pleated, cone, and flat. Pleated masks expand to cover the nose and chin, whereas cone-shaped masks are shaped to arch up over the nose, and many extend below the chin. Flat masks are simple rectangles of fabric and are less likely to conform to the face. Masks should fall just below the eyes and go up a bit higher over the nose.

Disposable masks for kids are available in a pleated style, like the surgical masks worn by medical staff (these tend to be cheaper but leave gaps around the face), or in a closer-fitting, cone-shaped or boat-shaped KN95 or KF94.

Some masks have nose-bridge wires, which help the top of the mask contour to the nose. Masks with nose-bridge wires seem to have the most benefit for older children and children with nasal bridges that are higher relative to their upper cheeks; we found that nose-bridge wires didn’t make much of a difference in fit for younger kids (around ages 2 to 6) with smaller noses. A nose-bridge wire may be especially beneficial for kids who wear glasses, if they experience fogging.

As with masks for adults, when it came to kids masks, we found that one size definitely did not fit all. Even brands offering multiple kids sizes weren’t well suited to every tester in the target size. To increase the odds of getting a good fit, look at the dimensions of the mask and compare them to the measurements of your child’s face before you order. But know that even if the dimensions of the mask seem appropriate, the ear loops play a big role in fit. Several of our picks have adjustable ear loops to allow for a comfortable fit for a wide range of face sizes. For safety reasons, we don’t recommend kids masks that wrap around or tie behind the head.

When we began testing for this guide, in summer 2020, few masks were available for kids, and most of them were simply constructed with a few layers of cloth. Since then, many more masks for kids have become available, including those with medical-grade filters. Updated guidance from the CDC places more emphasis on masks with these protective filters. Our current picks—the Enro mask, Happy Masks Pro, WellBefore Kids KN95, and Powecom KN95—all offer robust built-in filtration.

Our cloth picks with incorporated filters, the Enro mask and the Happy Masks Pro, blocked about the same amount of airborne particles as a KN95 mask in independent lab tests.

N95 masks are designed to meet US standards, and they can block 95% of particles as small as 0.1 micron in diameter. There are no N95 masks made specifically for kids (and if you see one, it’s counterfeit). Other high-performing medical masks are produced in children’s sizes, including the KN95 (China’s N95 equivalent) and KF94 (Korea’s N95 equivalent). All are made with similar layers of high-filtration, nonwoven materials and can block 94% to 95% of tiny airborne particles.

In addition, some cloth masks come with filters sewn in. In independent lab tests commissioned by Wirecutter (you can read more details below), our cloth picks with incorporated filters, the Enro mask and the Happy Masks Pro, blocked about the same amount of airborne particles as a KN95 mask. Additional research (by Marr and others) has found that cloth masks with incorporated filters improve the mask’s ability to block particles, but that KN95 and KF94 masks still performed better.

There are a few caveats: First, a filter layer was more effective only when it fit the entire expanse of the mask; otherwise, air could get in or out around any areas the filter didn’t cover. (Both Enro and Happy Masks Pro masks have built-in filters that span the entire mask. Cloth masks with filter pockets, which allow you to add an extra fabric layer of disposable filter, tend to be less effective.) And though we sent only comfortable and adjustable cloth masks to be tested, the lab tests also didn’t specifically account for fit or comfort (which Shu and Marr said should still be a priority in masks for kids). The filtration of Enro and Happy Masks models can also diminish over time, especially if they are washed improperly.

Generally speaking, the more densely woven the material is, the better it can block particles. However, very densely woven materials, particularly when it comes to reusable masks, can come at the expense of breathability.

Because breathability is important both for comfort and protection, more layers is not necessarily better, said Taher Saif, PhD, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Adding too many layers of fabric or a filter can force air in and out around the mask (where there are gaps between the mask and your face), instead of through it; this could make the mask less effective overall. A review of 25 studies agreed that “there is a trade-off in that more layers increases the resistance to breathing.” The Happy Masks Pro was the only cloth mask we tested that has more than three layers—including a built-in filter layer—but that still remained breathable, comfortable, and well fitted.

Parenting expert and psychologist Laura Markham, whom we interviewed during the height of the pandemic, said that parental attitudes and actions are paramount in getting children to wear masks. “If you always wear one when you are out, they’ll want to wear a mask,” she said. While working on this guide, I discovered that my then 3-year-old especially liked wearing light-blue masks because they reminded him of the surgical masks my husband wears at work: “I look like Daddy,” he said, beaming.

Whether you’re masking while traveling or when you’re sick, explain to your child that wearing a mask is “a way we show that we’re caring for other people,” Markham recommended. And to make it fun, you could say, “We’re superheroes, just like superheroes wear masks, we’re protecting other people.”

It’s important to start small and work up to longer periods, Markham said. If your child is new to wearing a mask, Markham recommends starting in your home. You could perhaps play a game like “guess my emotion”—a twist on charades in which everyone in the family puts on a mask, and then you each take turns acting out an emotion while others guess what it could be. We tried this with my 3- and 6-year-olds, and we had fun using our whole bodies to show feelings like “frustrated,” “excited,” and “bored.” We also tried Bill Nye’s makeshift way to “show” that a mask is working by taking turns trying to blow out a candle while wearing each of the masks we tested.

Shu suggested that a good time to practice wearing a mask is when a child is doing a quiet activity, like watching videos or listening to a story. These small sessions will give you an opportunity to troubleshoot the mask and find ways to make it comfier (read more in the Making it comfortable section, below). Children should also be encouraged to wash their hands after handling their worn masks in practice sessions. And even if a parent decides on the brand of mask, Markham said it’s valuable to have your child choose the pattern or color so they feel a sense of ownership.

Comfort is another important factor when it comes to masks for kids, Marr said, “because if they’re not going to wear it, then there’s no value to it.” You may have to try more than one brand or style of mask before you find the right one for your child. But there are several things you can do to help make masks more comfortable to wear for long periods. To take pressure off the back of the ears, you can add buttons to a hat or headband and attach the ear loops to the buttons. Alternatively, you can make or purchase “ear savers” or “strap extenders,” so the mask secures behind the head. (As we note elsewhere, we didn’t test any masks that tied or fastened behind the head, due to the potential strangulation hazard.)

Kids who wear glasses may find that fogging becomes a problem while they’re wearing a mask; a nose-bridge wire may be valuable because it helps create a closer seal along the top of the mask, limiting exhalations from going up toward the glasses. If the mask you purchase doesn’t have a nose-bridge wire, you can buy stick-on ones. You can also try resting the glasses on top of the mask. Washing glasses with soap and water or an anti-fogging solution may also help.

Wearing a mask for hours can cause skin irritation, chafing, or chapped lips. For chafing, petroleum jelly may do the trick, but there are also mask-specific products that health-care providers use, like Body Glide Face Glide. If your child has sensitive skin and needs to wear a mask for long periods, it may be worth putting one of these in their backpack. Skin irritation can also be made worse with synthetic fabrics (like polyester) or fabric dyes, so it may be necessary to try a different mask. For more help troubleshooting skin problems, including maskne, the American Academy of Dermatology offers these tips.

Everyone should avoid masks that have “breathing valves,” which are round plastic pieces on one side of a mask that allow exhaled air out, often without passing through all the layers that serve to filter air (you sometimes see these valves on N95 masks, including the ones Wirecutter recommends for wildfire smoke). These types of masks are intended for use when there is debris in the air, like at a construction site or for smoke or pollution. Shu warned that “masks with exhalation valves are not recommended for prevention of viral transmission since they release particles from the wearer into the air.”

Masks with straps and ties that go around the head or neck pose a safety concern for young children, especially while they’re at play. Shu and other child-health experts have noted that children need to be able to remove their masks independently. For these reasons, we did not include any masks with ties or elastic that fastened around the head or neck in our testing.

We first tested kids masks beginning in July 2020, when relatively few companies were making face masks for kids. We focused on the best options available at that time: cloth masks that had at least two layers, were readily available, could be ordered online, and were specifically sized and designed for children. Kids masks with features like adjustable ear loops, flexible nose-bridge wires, built-in filters, or masks made from breathable performance fabrics were hard to find. We ruled out masks with ties or around-the-head straps, due to concerns about strangulation during play.

We sent masks to six families, with a total of 10 children, ages 2 to 11. Each mask was worn for an extended period to see how well it was tolerated and stayed in place on each child. Parents also reported on fit, fabric, and how the masks stood up to washing.

As the pandemic wore on, companies continued introducing and updating mask designs, making masks for kids that were more breathable, more adjustable, and, in some cases, had built-in filters. In fall and winter 2020, we continued testing masks for kids, eventually trying some 30 models.

In December 2020, April 2021, and August 2021, Wirecutter commissioned an independent lab at Colorado State University’s Center for Energy Development and Health to test how well the masks on our list filtered droplet- and aerosol-sized particles. We sent a total of 39 prewashed adult and kids masks, plus some filter inserts, to the lab. To test for filtration and breathability, the researchers glued the masks down over a hole and pushed particles through a section of the fabric.

The ability to filter air is just one factor to consider when choosing a mask; fit, comfort, and breathability are also important, especially for kids.

The lab test showed that all of our current and former kids-mask picks are effective at catching 5- to 10-micron particles, which are equivalent in size to the largest droplets humans release during breathing and talking, respectively. All the masks were also able to block at least some of the smallest particles tested, down to 0.5 micron. Two cloth masks stood out in the lab test: The Enro and Happy Masks Pro masks have built-in filters and performed about as well as a surgical mask or an N95, blocking about 99% and 94% of 0.5-micron particles, respectively. Other cloth masks, without filters, performed about the same as one another—they filtered up to about 20% of these smallest particles, whether they had two or three layers, or were made with cotton or polyester.

In April 2021 and August 2021, we also sent several N95, KN95, KF94, and other disposable masks (including kids-size ones) for independent lab testing. We found that our picks—the WellBefore Kids KN95 and the Children’s Sized Powecom KN95—filtered as well as a standard N95, blocking about 99.5% of 0.5-micron particles.

It’s important to know that a mask’s filtration ability can be impacted by how you use and care for it. During our August 2021 round of testing, we also evaluated Enro and Happy Masks models that had been worn and washed for about six months (including a few rounds in the dryer, which neither manufacturer recommends). Enro masks can be machine-washed but should be hung to dry, and Happy Masks models should be hand-washed and air-dried. In the lab, both masks showed a reduced ability to block particles. The well-worn Happy Masks Pro showed about 30% filtration efficiency for 0.5-micron particles (granted, the manufacturer recommends that the Happy Masks model not go into a washing machine at all, which this mask had many times). The much-used Enro mask showed about 44% filtration efficiency for 0.5-micron particles, less than half of the value measured with a brand-new Enro. The well-used Enro and Happy Masks Pro masks, however, still blocked particles two to four times better than a cloth mask with no filter. Enro told us that if the mask started to look weathered (which ours did), it was time to replace it.

It’s also important to note that there are limitations to this type of lab testing, which is admittedly imperfect. For one thing, the test doesn’t account for the fit-related gaps you’d see in the real world; these gaps can be minimal or significant, depending on the size and shape of a particular child’s face. Also, as researcher Saif explained, breathing in and out creates a different kind of airflow compared with that seen in the test settings—the lab test is like one long exhale, it also doesn’t take into account dramatic changes in air movement as would happen during coughs, sneezes, and shouts. The ability to filter air is just one factor to consider when choosing a mask; fit, comfort, and breathability are also important, especially for kids.

Finally, it was notable that some masks claiming to have built-in filters did not always demonstrate improved filtration in our tests, when compared with standard cloth masks.

This machine-washable mask is lightweight and breathable, and it includes an incorporated filter. It was among the best performers in our independent lab test.

Why we like it: The Enro Tech Kids Face Mask has a built-in filter, which the company says has “99% virus filtration efficiency” (based on tests in an independent lab that the company commissioned). We confirmed this in our independent lab testing: The Enro was among the best performers, filtering out about 99% of the smallest (0.5 micron) particles included in our lab testing—an efficacy similar to a surgical or N95 mask. (However, we tested only fabric, not fit, meaning that the filtration results assume a perfect seal around the face.) With two sizes for kids, the Enro mask provides excellent nose-to-chin and cheek-to-cheek coverage for kids over age 4, we found. And it also features a nose-bridge wire and adjustable ear loops. It is also exceptionally lightweight and breathable, and our testers found it to be comfortable. Also, unlike some masks with built-in filters, the Enro mask is machine-washable. Enro offers the mask in a large number of colors and patterns, and there’s a detailed guide for choosing the right size.

Enro offers a second design, the Curv, which costs about $5 more and has a flexible wire in the center of the mask, helping it tent off the face. We tested it, and though the Curv does create a bit more room around the mouth compared with the Tech, it’s not as much space as the Happy Masks Pro offers. If your child strongly prefers this type of fit, the Happy Masks Pro is likely a better option.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: During at-home testing, we found that the Enro mask ran a bit large, and the smallest size may not fit children younger than about age 4. The mask’s ability to block particles also appears to lessen after repeated washings. We sent a mask we had worn and washed for six months (including an accidental run through the dryer) for an independent lab test. And we found that its filtration had significantly diminished, in comparison with that of a brand-new mask, filtering about 44% of 0.5-micron particles (instead of 99% when new).

Construction: three layers (the inner layer is antimicrobial-treated cotton; the outer layer is antimicrobial-treated polyester; the middle layer is a washable PM0.1 filter)

Sizes: kids XXS, youth XS

Notable features: adjustable ear loops, nose-bridge wire, sewn-in filter

This mask has five layers, including a three-ply filter, but it still feels breathable and lightweight. In our independent lab test, it was among the best performers. But it needs to be hand-washed.

Why we like it: The Happy Masks Pro is made with five layers, including an incorporated filter, which the company says can filter 99.9% of incoming and outgoing virus-containing aerosols (based on tests in an independent lab that the company commissioned; the tests focused on particles that were as small as 0.3 micron). In our own independent lab tests, which focused exclusively on filtration, the Happy Masks Pro blocked about 94% of the smallest (0.5 micron) particles tested. This means it performed far better than filterless cloth masks and about as well as a surgical mask or an N95. It’s important to note that in the company’s test as well as in our test, only fabric was tested, not fit. The test results assume there’s a complete seal around the face. And though this mask fit many of our testers, it was not a perfect fit for everyone.

Despite this mask’s many layers, we were surprised to find that it fit our young testers well, and the ear toggles helped adjust the fit for kids of many ages. The small fit our youngest testers best, especially those around ages 4 and 5, but it also worked for our older testers, up to age 10 (children around that age may want to try a medium instead of a small; the company has a size chart to help you decide what size to buy). Because the structure of the mask holds it away from the face, the fit was on the shorter side, nose to chin, for our older testers. But it stayed in place during high-intensity activities, including sports practices. Our testers really liked that the Happy Masks Pro didn’t sit against the nose and mouth, as many masks do. Testers reported that it was easy to breath and talk through this mask. Happy Masks has also released a new version, called the Happy Masks Ultra, which claims an extra-strong nose wire and more structure. However we don’t think that the extra structure makes it much better. One thing the Ultra does have is an additional size—an extra small, which should fit tiny tots.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Happy Masks Pro is hand-wash-only. According to the company’s website, it is not machine-washable due to the built-in filter. The company told us that it was still testing whether the Happy Masks Ultra can be machine-washed; it still recommends hand-washing for now. As with the Enro mask, the Happy Masks Pro’s ability to block particles appears to lessen after repeated washings. In an independent lab test of one mask that we had worn and washed for six months (including a few accidental runs through the washing machine), filtration fell precipitously; the older mask filtered about 30% of 0.5-micron particles compared with 94% in a new mask.

One tester found that the nose-bridge wire became displaced while hand-washing; customer service promptly sent a replacement mask. And this mask doesn’t fit every face shape, falling short for those who prefer or need a mask that provides more nose-to-chin coverage.

Construction: five layers (inner and outer layers are polyester; three middle layers offer filtration)

Notable features: adjustable ear loops, sewn-in filter

This disposable KN95 mask is one of the few available with adjustable ear loops, a helpful feature for achieving a close, comfortable fit.

Why we like it: The WellBefore Kids KN95 offers excellent filtration, and it’s more adjustable than most KN95s for kids. In our independent lab test, this mask filtered as well as a standard N95, blocking about 99.5% of 0.5-micron particles. (Our lab test didn’t account for fit, and air may come in and out around the edges of the mask when someone is wearing it.) The WellBefore Kids is one of the few KN95 masks we’ve tested that come in multiple children’s sizes—in this case, a regular size (intended for kids ages 9 to 12), a small size (intended for kids ages 5 to 8), and an extra-small (intended for kids ages 2 to 4). However, we found that the extra-small is best for 2-year-olds or for older toddlers with especially petite faces; our 4-year-old tester fit best in the size small. The WellBefore masks have a nose-bridge wire, and they are among the few kids-size KN95s we’ve found that have adjustable ear loops; both of these things helped this mask achieve a good fit on a range of faces. And though they don’t have the range of patterns and colors that cloth masks do, the WellBefore KN95s come in a few solid colors (green, burgundy, and deep blue) as well as three camouflage patterns, plus the standard, medical-style white.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: As with other KN95s we tried, some kid testers reported that the masks had a strange smell compared with cloth masks (it may help to open the package and let the masks air out overnight).

Dimensions: regular (ages 9–12), 5½ by 5¾ inches; small (ages 5–8), 4½ by 5 inches; extra-small (ages 2–4), 4.1 by 4½ inches

Notable features: nose-bridge wire, built-in filtration, adjustable ear loops

Though this mask lacks adjustable ear loops, it is one of the cheapest KN95s available.

Why we like it: The Children’s Sized Powecom KN95 is among the least expensive kids-size KN95 masks we’ve found. It offers a fit and shape similar to that of the WellBefore KN95, though it lacks adjustable ear loops (which the WellBefore masks have). The Powecom does have a nose-bridge wire, and it’s cheaper. We found that it fit testers ages 4 to 10 well. In our independent lab tests, we found that the Powecom mask was highly effective at blocking even the smallest particles, filtering about 99.5% of 0.5-micron particles (though the lab test didn’t account for fit). We purchased Powecom masks from the authorized importer and distributor, Bona Fide Masks. This mask style is available in several colors.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Some kid testers found that the masks smelled different from the cloth masks they were used to. So it may help to open the package and let them air out, especially for kids who are sensitive to smells. This mask may be a bit too small for kids over age 10; kids age 10 and up may want to try Powecom’s adult sizes.

Dimensions: one size (7 by 6¼ inches)

Notable features: nose-bridge wire, built-in filtration

For 2- and 3-year-old toddlers, wearing a mask can take some getting used to. Angela Tomlin, a clinical psychologist and professor of clinical pediatrics at Indiana University, said it’s important to keep in mind that at these ages, toddlers are still learning how to wear a mask, and they may need frequent reminders and breaks. To get younger children used to wearing a mask, Tomlin recommends sitting in front of a mirror and practicing putting it on and taking it off, as well as wearing it around the house before they need to wear it out. She also suggests incorporating choosing a mask into the routine of leaving the house. Modeling (by parents and caregivers) is also important for children. It’s important to choose a mask that fits your child, because a too-big mask might make it difficult for a toddler to see, Tomlin said. In our own testing, we’ve found that adjustable ear loops are helpful for achieving a good fit on a small face, and a nose-bridge wire is less important for a small nose.

For 2- and 3-year-olds, we recommend trying the filter-incorporated Happy Masks Pro, which comes in a range of whimsical prints and bright colors, or the Happy Masks Ultra, which comes in an extra-small size (though we found it to be a bit too small for a 3-year-old tester).  If you want a disposable, filtered option for your toddler, this WellBefore KN95 comes in an extra-small size, which is only 4.1 inches wide, and it has adjustable ear loops.

If your child won’t tolerate the Enro mask, the Happy Masks Pro, or disposable masks, you may find basic, filterless cloth masks are the most practical options, especially for toddlers. The cone-shaped Scout & Indiana Kids Face Mask is a former pick, and it’s still one of our favorites for small toddlers, who appreciate the lightweight fabric and fun prints. Joah Love’s masks are exceptionally soft, and the kids size was a good fit for our 2-year-old and 4-year-old testers; the mask has a pocket for a filter and also comes with a band so that it can hang like a necklace when the child takes it off. However, the Joah Love masks rank among the most expensive we’ve tried. Plus, their adjustable ear loops don’t stay in place quite as well as ear loops with a rubber stopper. The simple Old Navy Triple-Layer Pleated Face Mask for Kids, our former budget pick, is one of the cheapest cloth masks we’ve tested; it fits small faces well and has those rubber ear-loop stoppers we like.

If you’re looking for a reusable mask with robust filtration for smaller faces: The Happy Masks Ultra comes in an extra small size that will fit the smallest of faces. It is similar to our top pick, the Happy Masks Pro, but has a bit more structure that helps hold it away from the face. Like the Pro, the Ultra needs to be hand-washed.

If you’re looking for an exceptionally lightweight, disposable, N95-style mask: The 4CAir AireTrust Nano Mask for Kids is a former top pick that is still a great choice. This KN95 mask should fit kids ages 4 to 10, and it has adjustable ear loops and a nose-bridge wire. Our lab tests confirmed that it filters about 99% of aerosol-sized particles (assuming a perfect fit). The downside is that it is considerably more expensive than other kids KN95s, including the ones that are now our picks.

If you want a KF94 with more face coverage: The Blue KF94 (“KF” stands for “Korean filter,” the Korean equivalent of an N95) has a unique shape that provides excellent coverage for bigger kids, and it has a nose-bridge wire. But it lacks adjustable ear loops, so it wasn’t the best fit for our 4-year-old tester.

If you want a box of surgical-style masks: DemeTech size-small masks come in boxes of 50, and our independent lab test showed they filtered effectively. However, they’re expensive, and they lack adjustable ear loops.

If you want a few surgical-style masks: EvolveTogether kids masks are lightweight, come in a few solid colors, and are sold in packs of seven (dark green) and 30 (navy, white). However, they lack adjustable ear loops, and they’re expensive.

The Stark Mask has adjustable ear loops, but it lacks a nose-bridge wire. And it didn’t contour to our testers’ faces, leaving gaps along the top and bottom.

The FloMask has a silicone gasket that helps prevent air from coming in or out around the edges. The company’s lab tests show that the FloMask’s filters are effective at blocking aerosolized viruses; however, the filters did not fit on the apparatus of the independent lab that performed our testing, so we could not confirm their results. Some kid testers liked the around-the-head straps and said that the mask was comfortable, but other testers were not willing to wear this mask for long periods. It is also the most expensive mask we tried.

The following masks do not have an integrated filter, but we’re including them as options for children who won’t tolerate the Enro mask, the Happy Masks Pro, or disposable masks.

The Halo Mask is a soft, bamboo-and-Lycra-blend mask, and the size small fits kids as young as 4. This mask has adjustable ear loops and a filter pocket that fits a full-coverage filter (sold separately by the same company). The main downside is that getting the filter in can be difficult, and you must remove it for washing.

We tested the Levi’s mask, which is well priced and comes in multiple sizes. But the fabric was much too dense to be breathable. And this mask ties around the head, which we note could pose a strangulation hazard.

The Old Navy Triple-Layer Pleated Face Mask for Kids is the best cheap cloth mask for kids we’ve tested, and it’s our former budget pick. Many of our kid testers (and their parents) found the three-layer pleated cotton masks to be reliable, durable, and capable of fitting a wider range of ages better than other basic pleated masks we tested. But it doesn’t have a filter, and the Old Navy mask blocked fewer aerosol-sized particles than masks with built-in filters and medical masks.

The cone-shaped, filterless Scout & Indiana Kids Face Mask stands out for its offbeat prints and patterns. It used to be one of our top picks. The thin adjustable ear loops are comfortable for toddlers, and they help the masks achieve a precise fit. And though this mask seems thinner than the other cloth masks we tested, our lab tests showed that its fabric provided just as much filtration as all of the filterless cloth masks. The Little Kids (ages 3 to 6) size was great for a 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 5-year-old, but it seemed a tad small on a 6-year-old.

We also tried the Cubcoats mask, which was of low quality compared with even cheaper masks, like those from Old Navy. The nose-bridge wire wasn’t centered, the stitching wasn’t straight, and the synthetic fabric didn’t feel like it would hold up over time.

The Caraa kids mask offers desirable features such as adjustable ear loops, a nose-bridge wire, and a filter pocket. However, it’s the thinnest and smallest mask we tested (after washing); it measured just under 5 inches wide and 4¾ inches tall with the pleats unfolded, which is too small even for a 6-year-old. The toggles on the adjustable ear loops also came off easily.

The filterless City Threads Face Mask is a former pick—and one of the two softest masks of all we tested. However, it lacks adjustability, and some people had a hard time finding one that fit their child well.

The exceptionally soft, adjustable Joah Love mask has a children’s size, which was a good fit for our 2-year-old and 4-year-old testers. It has adjustable ear loops, and though they didn’t stay in place quite as well as ear loops with a rubber stopper, our toddler testers liked the soft fabric straps—and our 4-year-old tester was able to adjust the straps himself. However, this mask lacks a nose-bridge wire and an integrated filter, and it’s one of the most expensive we tried.

The filterless Graf Lantz Petite Zenbu Face Mask is a smaller-size version of an adult mask. The petite version runs a bit large for small kids, though, at 7½ inches by 3 inches when folded, and some testers found it difficult to breathe through. It also doesn’t have an integrated filter.

Kids with sensory differences might like Sommerfly’s “sensory-friendly fabric” mask. This is one of the only kids masks we found that has an around-the-head strap with a safety-release clip, to avoid any strangulation hazard. It may be a good choice for kids who can’t tolerate ear loops, but it may not fit as snugly as a mask that has two connection points.

The WellBefore Kids boat-shaped KF94 is much thicker than other KN95/KF94 masks we tested, and our testers found it difficult to breathe through.

Most cloth masks can be machine-washed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Happy Masks need to be hand-washed, and doing this is fairly simple: Swish the mask in a bowl of water with dish soap, and then rinse it in clean water and hang to dry. (Happy Masks also has a how-to video). Hot washing is not necessary, and it can shrink fabrics and “hasten wear and tear over time,” Cornell fabric scientist Juan Hinestroza told us.

As for a detergent, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Felicia Scaggs Huang told us in an interview that she recommends washing masks in fragrance-free detergent, since perfumes can irritate kids’ airways. Most cloth masks can go in the dryer. But if you’re willing to forgo that convenience, you can prolong a mask’s life by hanging it to dry.

When kids are wearing masks to school, they should put on a clean one “at least daily,” Shu said. “If they have the luxury of bringing two to three a day, that would be nice,” she added. “A damp mask is better than no mask,” she said, but “once it gets wet, it might be a good idea to change it.”

We came across several masks that the sellers described as being “antimicrobial,” which refers to being antibacterial, not antiviral. “They may be effective in preventing bacterial growth on the mask, but they won’t kill coronavirus,” Shu said. Washing masks with regular laundry detergent should be sufficiently effective at preventing bacteria from growing, as well as killing viruses on the mask.

For disposable masks, the CDC indicates they can be reused by allowing them to dry between uses, but it notes they should be “discarded if soiled, damaged, or hard to breathe through.” We offer more guidance on reusing N95, KN95, and other disposable masks here.

This article was edited by Amy Miller Kravetz, Courtney Schley, Tracy Vence, and Kalee Thompson.

Laura Markham, PhD, psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, phone interview, July 13, 2020

Taher Saif, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, phone interview, July 13, 2020

Joseph Martyak, director of communications at US Consumer Product Safety Commission, email interview, July 15, 2020

Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician and author, phone interview, July 17, 2020, February 5, 2021, and August 10, 2021

Onur Aydin, Taher Saif, et al., Performance of Fabrics for Home-Made Masks Against the Spread of Respiratory Infections Through Droplets: A Quantitative Mechanistic Study, MedRxIv, July 8, 2020

Prateek Bahl, C. Raina MacIntyre, et al., Face coverings and mask to minimise droplet dispersion and aerosolisation: a video case study, Thorax, July 24, 2020

Angela Tomlin, PhD, clinical psychologist, professor of Clinical Pediatrics, and director of the Section of Child Development at the Indiana University School of Medicine, phone interview, May 14, 2021

Linsey Marr, PhD, aerosol expert, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, phone interview, August 12, 2021

Jason Abaluck , Laura H. Kwong, et al, Impact of community masking on COVID-19: A cluster-randomized trial in Bangladesh, Science, December 2, 2021

Christina Szalinski is a freelance science writer with a PhD in cell biology.

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The Best Cloth and KN95 Face Masks for Kids and Toddlers | Reviews by Wirecutter

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