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The Best Types of Elastic for Face Masks: 7 TESTED

I tested 7 different types of elastic to find the best ones for face masks. I sewed samples and rated each one based on:

  • comfort,
  • how easy they were to sew through,
  • how durable they were after being sewn, washed, and dried.

I found the best type of elastic for face masks is 1/4″ (6mm) braid elastic.

Braid elastic has ribs running along the length. When you stretch it, it narrows.

In my tests, braid elastic held up to stitching and washing better than knit elastic. It was more durable.

Braid elastic is flat, so it sits behind the ear and doesn’t roll as much as cord elastic. Flat elastic is also much easier to sew than cord elastic.

I wouldn’t use anything wider than 3/8″ (9mm) for ear loops. It will be too wide to sit comfortably behind your ear.

I’m going to explain the different types of elastic below in more detail.

And I’ll show you before and after photos of my test samples. One of them actually fell apart after the stitching test!

7 elastic types tested for face masks

Can you cut wide elastic to make it 1/4″?

If you only have wide elastic on hand, it is possible to cut it narrower. I did this last year for my face masks and they’ve survived many washes.

I found that you can only cut knitted types of elastic. My braid and woven elastics fell apart when I tried cutting them lengthwise.

You also have to cut the elastic in a specific way, which I’ll show you below.

One important thing to know is that if you stitch knit elastic that has been cut, it will fall apart.

You have to choose a face mask design with side channels. This will allow you to slide your elastic through the channel and knot it, not sew it.


Braid elastic for face masks (the best type)

What is braid elastic?

It’s an elastic with ribs running along the length. When you stretch it, it narrows.

close up of braid elastic

Is braid elastic comfortable to wear?

Yes, my 1/4″ braid elastic sat comfortably behind my ear when tested. Because it’s flat, it didn’t shift and roll much.

Is braid elastic easy to sew?

Yes. I had no problems pinning it in place or sewing over it.

Is braid elastic damaged when sewn?

No. I didn’t see any weakening or stretched out areas on my elastic sample.

Is braid elastic damaged when washed?

I hand-washed my sample with soap and warm water and left it to air dry.

My braid elastic looked good. There was only a really tiny bit of fraying at the cut ends, which I wasn’t worried about.

I then washed my sample in boiling water for 1 minute. Again, the elastic looked as good as new.

Can you cut braid elastic smaller?

No, I tried and my braid elastic fell apart. The elastic cores just kept falling out and there was lots of fraying.


Knit elastic for face masks

What is knit elastic?

Knit elastic is soft and lightweight. When you stretch it, it doesn’t narrow. It has a ‘loopy’, knitted construction (stretch the elastic to see this better).

I have 2 types of knit elastic. The latex-free version feels softer than the one with latex.

black knit elastic in face mask
Ps. here’s how I made these adjustable ear loops.

Knit elastic has a tendency to fray at the cut ends.

It’s not the neatest look. But as long as you knot the elastic together, the fray won’t go beyond the knot.

Here’s a sample where I tugged the fray to show you what happens.

Is knit elastic comfortable to wear?

Yes, my 1/4″ knit elastic sat comfortably behind my ear when tested. Because it’s flat, it didn’t shift and roll much.

Is knit elastic easy to sew?

Yes. I had no problems pinning it in place or sewing over it.

All of my flat elastics were easy to sew. My 2 knit elastic samples are in the middle and right.

Is knit elastic damaged when sewn?

Dritz, a company that makes and sells elastic, says knit elastic “can be stitched directly to fabric without affecting stretch quality”.

When I sewed my ear loop samples, I gave them a tug to see how durable they were.

My knit elastic stretched out where it was stitched. So I think sewing the elastic weakened it a bit.

Is knit elastic damaged when washed?

I hand-washed my sample with soap and warm water and left it to air dry. The elastic looked good and the cut ends only frayed a little.

After washing it in boiling water for 1 minute, the elastic was mostly OK, but 1 of the elastic cores snapped and there was more fraying at the ends.

Can you cut knit elastic smaller?

Yes.

But you can’t stitch through the elastic after it has been cut. It will just fall apart.

Here’s my knit elastic that I cut down to 3/8″ (width). As soon as I sewed it, I gave it a tug and this happened:

I stretched it a few more times and it snapped off completely!

It’s the sample at the top.

You can only use the cut elastic for face masks that have side channels on them.

So you slide your elastic through the channel to make ear loops. You’re not sewing it directly to the face mask.

A face mask ‘side channel’ sample. The elastic is not sewn to the fabric at all.

How to cut knit elastic smaller

Knit elastic is made up of elastic cores that are knitted together. Each core has a row of loops between it.

You need to pick 1 core and cut the loops next to it.

The best way to see the loops is to hold the elastic up to a light source. The loops have gaps in them, whereas the cores are solid black lines.

how to cut elastic smaller

Cut the loops slowly and carefully. Use your tiny scissors for this job.

Don’t cut through any elastic cores. That’s what gives the elastic its stretch, so we don’t want to damage it. If you accidentally cut it, the whole core will fall out.


Cord elastic for face masks

What is cord elastic?

Cord elastic has a round shape. It’s made from a stretchy core that’s knitted or wrapped with fiber yarns (source).

My cord elastic from Hemline is 2mm wide (that’s almost 1/8″). It’s thick and rigid. It creates a bulky knot.

white cord elastic in face mask
Ps. here’s how I made these adjustable ear loops.

I tested a thinner cord elastic below which I found better for masks.

Is cord elastic comfortable to wear?

As long as your elastic ear loop isn’t tight, then yes, it’s comfortable.

But if the elastic is a little tight around your ear, it will hurt. 2mm (1/8″) cord elastic is hard and rigid.

Is cord elastic easy to sew?

No!

My first problem was securing it in place. I couldn’t pin it, so I had to use big, bulky sewing clips.

I had to remove the clips very early when sewing because they got in the way of the presser foot.

So now the cord was free to move before I could actually sew over it. I had to try and hold it in place with my hand.

The presser foot did push it out of position, unfortunately.

Actually stitching the cord was also a nightmare for my machine. The needle struggled to penetrate the 2mm (1/8″) cord.

And when it actually did, the fabric kept getting sucked into the feed dogs and stuck!

Here’s a moment when the fabric got pushed into the feed dogs and stuck.

You can see the terrible stitching below.

[left] 1mm cord elastic, [right] 2mm cord elastic.

Amazingly, the stitching did hold the elastic in place. Here I tried stretching and tugging on the elastic and it didn’t pull out.

Is cord elastic damaged when sewn?

No.

Is cord elastic damaged when washed?

I hand-washed my sample with soap and warm water and left it to air dry. The elastic looked good.

I then washed it in boiling water for 1 minute and it still looked as good as new. There was only a tiny bit of fraying at the cut ends inside. So nothing to worry about.


Hat elastic for face masks

What is hat elastic?

It’s a thin, rounded elastic. Its commonly used to keep hats on heads.

For comparison, cord elastic is also rounded, but thicker and more rigid.

My version from Hemline was 1mm wide. 70% polyester and 30% ED (I’m guessing this stands for elastodiene). The care instructions were: wash at 60 degrees and iron on low heat (max. 110 degrees).

Is hat elastic comfortable to wear?

Yes, it’s thin and stretchy, so it feels fine behind the ear.

But because it’s rounded, it rolls around more than flat elastic.

Is hat elastic easy to sew?

No. I had issues trying to hold it in place and sew over it.

My sewing machine didn’t like going over rounded hat elastic. It’s also hard trying to penetrate something that’s only 1mm wide (almost 1/16″)!

For comparison, it wasn’t as bad as sewing thick 2mm (1/8″) cord elastic.

[left] my 1mm hat elastic sample, [right] my 2mm cord elastic sample.

Is hat elastic damaged when sewn?

No, the elastic was not weakened where it was stitched. But it’s tricky trying to stitch a narrow and round elastic in the first place.

Is hat elastic damaged when washed?

I hand-washed my sample with soap and warm water and left it to air dry. The elastic looked good.

Then I washed it in boiling water for 1 minute. It was still in great condition. There was only a tiny bit of fraying at the cut ends which I wasn’t worried about.

The elastic only has tiny frays inside. It held up well.

Woven elastic for face masks

What is woven elastic?

Woven elastic is a strong, rigid, and thick elastic. When stretched, it doesn’t narrow. It also doesn’t twist, so it’s sometimes used in waistbands.

Because of how firm it is, it suits medium-to-heavy weight fabrics, not lightweight ones.

Dritz, a company that makes and sells elastic, says it “can be stitched directly to fabric without affecting stretch quality”.

Can you cut woven elastic smaller?

I tried cutting woven elastic lengthwise. It frayed a lot and the elastic cores kept falling out, so I don’t recommend it.


How I tested the elastics

1) the comfort test

I put the elastics in a face mask as ear loops and wore them.

I wanted to see how comfortable they felt behind the ear, and if they stayed in place.

The ear loops were adjustable, so I didn’t have any issues with the elastics being too loose or tight. Here’s how I made adjustable ear loops.

2) the sewing test

I cut and sewed ear loop samples to check how easy they were to stitch.

I also wanted to see if stitching through the elastic damaged them.

So after sewing, I pulled on the ear loops to see how stretchy they still were. One of the elastics snapped and fell off at this point!

I also inspected the elastic on both sides of the stitching line. I wanted to check for any damage, like stretched out areas or if any elastic cores had snapped there.

Here my knit elastic had stretched out.

3) the hand-wash test

I hand-washed all my samples in warm water with soap. I scrubbed them, wringed them, and laid them on a towel to air dry.

handwash test for face mask elastic samples
I hand-washed my samples with soap and warm water.
different types of elastic drying on a pink towel
I left them to air dry on a towel.

Once dried, I checked how the elastic looked and if there was any fraying.

4) the boiling water test

I washed my samples again, but this time I placed them in boiling water for 1 minute.

different types of elastic in a bowl of water and a timer on a phone
Here my samples are in a bowl of boiling water for 1 minute.

This was against the manufacturer’s instructions to ‘wash at 60 degrees’.

I wanted to test the elastics at 100 degrees because it’s one of the washing suggestions from the World Health Organization (source, December 2020 version, page 3). I then left them to air dry on a towel.

Once dried, I checked the elastics for any visible damages and fraying. I then checked if they were still strong and stretchy by tugging on the ear loops.



Sources

makesomething.dritz.com. ‘Sewing Tutorial: How to Pick the Right Elastic for Your Sewing Projects’. [online] Available at: https://makesomething.dritz.com/2018/08/09/sewing-tutorial-how-pick-right-elastics-sewing-projects/ [accessed: 5 Feb 2021]

Ariel. ‘Washing Symbols Explained’. [online] Available at: https://www.ariel.co.uk/en-gb/how-to-wash/how-to-do-laundry/fabric-care-labels [accessed: 5 Feb 2021]

Hobbycraft. ‘Hemline Black Hat Elastic 4m’. [online] Available at: https://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/hemline-black-hat-elastic-4m/567026-1000 [accessed: 6 Feb 2021]