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The incompatibility that we never knew about until 2020 - masks and glasses!

30 Dec 2020 8:58 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

Whether you wear prescription glasses, safety glasses, or sunglasses, you're sure to notice the imminent fog caused by the required masks. This fog can be annoying and downright dangerous, and it is only going to get worse as the temperatures continue to decrease. Because I am blind without my glasses and rely on my mask for COVID-19 protection, I decided to research to find a way to make these two necessities work together.

Let's discuss why your glasses fog up in the first place. As you exhale, the water molecules in your breath hit your face mask. Depending on how porous the material is, some will penetrate, some will be absorbed, and most will be directed to the path of least resistance - typically the space at the top between your mask and cheeks. Because your glasses are colder than the air inside your mask, your breath will condensate on them, causing the annoying fog.

One way to keep your glasses from fogging up is to ensure that your mask fits properly with an adjustable noseband. If your mask does not have a noseband, you can always make one out of pipe cleaners and secure it to the top of your mask. After trying several different types of masks with built-in nosebands, it still allows for some air to come through and fog your glasses. The noseband helps but is not the best solution.

A method that works well with some of the masks I own is using your glasses to seal the top of the mask. If you pull your mask up higher on the bridge of your nose, you can set your glasses on your mask, ensuring that there is no gap for your breath to escape. I have found that some mask material allows my glasses to slide down my nose, and other masks create a gap between my chin and mask when I pull it up for this method. It works in a pinch, but there has to be a better way!

Healthcare workers insist that their secret for fogging glasses is using soap and water. When they wash their hands, they also give their glasses a lather and rinse. The soap is supposed to leave a film on the glasses that keeps them from fogging up. I tried with a mild hand soap first then moved onto dishwasher soap, both with no avail. Maybe the healthcare workers have a stronger detergent that works better for the anti-fogging, but as far as I have seen, the soap and water do not provide any added benefit.

Mask extenders claim to help with the fogging issue by linking the ear loops of your mask on the back of your head, providing a tighter fit of your mask on your face. Not only are mask extenders more comfortable for your ears, they narrow the space where your breath typically escapes between your mask and cheeks. You can buy these online, ask your bored mother to knit you one, or even improvise with some paper clips. Using the mask extenders with a mask that has an adjustable noseband will give you the best results. When trying this method, I only had fogging when I exhaled really big breaths, so this could be a reasonable solution to the fogging issue.

Using a tissue to block the space between your cheeks and mask was mentioned on Facebook as a fogging solution. I folded a tissue neatly and placed it along the top of my mask. It took some trial and error to get it right without blocking my nostrils. The space was minimized along with the fogging, but the tissue did get damp over time. I suggest if you use this method, replace your tissue often!

Dr. Daniel Heiferman, a neurosurgeon in Memphis, tweeted a tip that he uses in the operating room to keep his loupes from fogging during surgery. A BANDAID! He realized that a bandaid placed on the bridge of the nose eliminated the fogging and provided protection against irritation. Simply secure the bandaid with the cotton part on the bridge of your nose, with half the sticky part on the mask and the other half on your face. This completely eradicates the gap between your face and the mask, which shifts the escaping air to a different gap, eliminating fogging completely! The bandaid is also textured enough to prevent your glasses from sliding down the bridge of your nose. After trying all the other methods, this is the one that I recommend!

There are some other suggestions out there that I did not get to try. Some of these include anti-fog wipes and sprays, using random household items (raw potato, toothpaste, or shaving cream) on your lenses to prevent fogging. Before doing any of these, ensure that the special coatings on your glasses will not be affected!

It does not sound like we will be out of masks anytime soon, so if you have fogging issues, give these methods a shot! Stay safe out there and wash your hands!

Lindie Aragon is a Chemist for the City of Westminster’s Big Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility.

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