How to Wear a Mask Without Fogging up Your Glasses

If you are new to face mask and are one of two-thirds of American adults who wear prescription glasses, you may have noticed a problem: fogged-up lenses. It sounds insignificant, but now that the CDC has advised everyone to wear cloth face masks when we go out to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, what was once a problem for people in certain professions is now affecting the rest of the population.

Before the onset of this pandemic, I wore face masks for a year and a half , caring for my mom , who was being treated for leukemia with chemotherapy and stem cell transplants. We were told that she has a baby’s immune system without any vaccines and was advised to wear masks around her. For a person wearing glasses, this was a problem: it is difficult to do something when the glasses are fogged up all the time.

This is what my glasses usually look like with a face mask, especially when I just walked into the house after being outside:

This has become an even more serious problem for us now that we should not touch our faces. This does not mean that we can simply take off the glasses when they fog up, wipe them down and put them back on without passing the virus from hand to face. And if you’re someone who really relies on constantly wearing glasses to see (as opposed to reading glasses or prescriptions for light so you can read distant signs), taking them off isn’t an option. So what do glasses do? Yesterday, for the sake of journalism, I put on pants and tried some of the supposed solutions to keep my glasses from fogging up when wearing a mask. Here’s what I found out.

Why do your glasses fog up when you wear a face mask?

Before moving on to solutions, let’s first understand why this is a problem. According to a 2011 article published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England , the following occurs:

“The face mask directs most of the exhaled air upward, where it contacts the lenses of the glasses. Misting occurs when warm water vapor condenses on the cooler lens surface to form tiny droplets that scatter light and reduce the lens’s ability to transmit contrast. ”

Even without masks, people who wear glasses and live in cold climates are likely used to their glasses fogging up when they return indoors after being outdoors in cold weather. The same basically happens here, with the added complication of your hot, wet breath reaching the lenses. Likewise, I have noticed that my glasses fog up much more when I wear the mask outside in colder temperatures. In fact, yesterday when I started my test it was 60 degrees in New York and it took a while for my glasses to fog up, whereas when I wore the mask a few days ago when I was 40 my glasses were completely fogged up. up for a few seconds.

Ways to Prevent Glasses Fogging When Wearing a Face Mask

Before I move on to which methods worked best, I must mention that after I first went out onto the fire escape in the afternoon and did not encounter a lot of fog, I went out again last night when the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees. That’s it: my glasses got fogged right after leaving the house.

While it is obvious that this is far from a serious scientific experiment and will not pass peer review, I still tried to use some kind of methodology. When I tried every fogging method, I went through one quarter to make sure I was recreating the typical conditions where my glasses fog up (outdoors and on the move). I also used hand sanitizer every time I put on or took off the mask.

Also, I should point out that I only worked with the accessories that were in my apartment, so I didn’t have an anti-fog spray . I’ve actually used it and have had luck with it before and was confident I could order it online, but wanted to see what other options were out there. I used a reusable cloth mask that I bought from Etsy. Here are the results of my experiment.

Paper napkins

This video from Japan shows a man folding a piece of tissue paper into a small rectangle and then placing it on top of a mask. The idea is to add another layer to the mask at the top (where the warm humid air comes out) to absorb moisture. I rummaged around in the closet, found a gift bag with fairly fresh tissue paper and twisted it. I folded it just like in the video (although the video shows a disposable surgical mask, not the fabric I used), and before I could even start walking around the block, my glasses immediately fogged up. I tried it a few more times – with and without the tissue paper – and each time I got the same results: my glasses were fogged even more than without the tissue paper. Maybe this only works with disposable masks, or maybe I was wrong, but I won’t try this method again.

Questionable

Not everyone was lucky enough to find a tissue paper-wrapped candle in a gift bag in their closet, so I also wanted to try this method with a regular napkin (also known as a Kleenex napkin). I did the same, folded it up and placed it over the mask. It actually worked better than tissue paper, but it was about the same as using nothing at all.

Tears in the cheeks

I stumbled upon another method that recommends making room for air to escape by creating gaps in the cheek area of ​​the mask . Given the fact that the mask needs to fit snugly around your face to keep your potentially microbial breath away from other people, it didn’t seem like a great option, but I tried it anyway. Yes, it worked – in the sense that my glasses didn’t fog up as I walked – but wearing a mask that doesn’t cover my face properly seems pretty counterproductive. The CDC says face masks should “fit snugly but comfortably on the side of my face,” and the fact that I had to loosen the mask to keep my glasses from fogging definitely kept her from getting close to the smug.

Fold the top quarter of the mask

According to the Fast Company , Japan’s Metropolitan Police Department is suggesting that the top quarter of the mask be folded down – the idea is that the air coming out won’t be that close to your goggles. Again, I had concerns about losing any surface area of ​​the mask. But like the cheek method, it prevented my lenses from fogging up. However, if you follow the CDC’s guidelines, it doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Metal nose clip

The idea is to simulate an adjustable piece of metal on the top of the N95 masks to shape the mask to match the contours of your face. It makes sense, but it all depends on what kind of sheet mask you have. If you’re making your own mask, or have a mask that you can pass a small, flexible piece of metal through the top, then it’s worth a try. Dan Formosa, a designer with experience making medical masks, told Fast Company that metal fasteners from an office supply store can help if you make your own mask. Others used pipe cleaners or paper clips with the same effect.

My sheet face mask is fully stitched up so I didn’t have the option to insert a piece of flexible metal without cutting through the mask (which I didn’t want to do). But I found a paperclip, straightened it, and then taped it to the top of the mask. Unfortunately my version was too primitive to change, but if you have the ability to insert a clasp, paperclip, or tubing cleaner through the top seam of the mask, it’s worth a try.

Soap film

This was the method I was most optimistic about, given that there is a magazine article that says it works. Here’s how they describe the technique:

“Just before putting on the mask, wash your goggles with soapy water and shake off excess. Then let the glasses air dry, or gently wipe the lenses with a soft cloth before putting them back on. Now the lenses of the glasses should not fog up when wearing the mask. “

I went back to my apartment, washed my glasses according to these instructions, and then went back outside to see if it worked. Unfortunately, my hopes for this method did not materialize. I mean my glasses were definitely less foggy than without that soap film, but my lenses did fog up.

Breathing flute

During the last long period of wearing the mask, I have used a breathing technique similar to playing the flute: using my lips to blow air downward, as shown in the video above. It wasn’t perfect and it took some training to remember to breathe like this with the mask, but I found it really helped a lot. Full disclosure: I played the flute in my elementary school music ensemble, and although it was a long time ago, I retained the ability to breathe this way down for long periods of time thanks to muscle memory. I tried this technique again yesterday and it was undoubtedly the most efficient method I have tested. No, my glasses weren’t 100% free of fogging, but they only fogged up around the edges and I could still see without problems.

Verdict

For me, flute breathing worked best, but I’m interested in trying the homemade mask method where a small piece of flexible metal is placed on top to fit your face just like an N95 mask. My paper clip version was not very good. As for the soap method, if healthcare professionals are fortunate enough to warrant a medical journal article, it’s worth giving it a try, too. I have tried using both liquid hand soap and lather which I processed with bar soap, but there is perhaps a certain type of soap that works best.

If you’re going to make a DIY mask, there are free, downloadable instructions on how to create an anti-fogging face mask that you might want to try. I haven’t done or tested this, but if you’re making your own mask anyway and need a pattern, this might be a good option. Given how many different types of masks there are now, everyone who wears glasses may have to do their own version of this experiment and figure out which method works best depending on which type they have. But when in doubt, pretend you are playing the flute and breathe down.

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