How to Convert Headband Straps to Ear Straps on an N95 Mask

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread at a rapid-fire rate, many Americans have begun wearing powerful, virus-blocking N95 masks. Although a few brands already have ear straps, most are made with tight headband straps that wrap around the face and head. They’re not exactly comfortable, though, leading many to wonder if they can alter the straps.

To convert headband straps on an N95 mask to ear straps, loosen the staples holding the straps in place. Rearrange the straps vertically rather than horizontally to create ear straps. You may also have to trim the straps to keep your mask tight.

If you’re wondering, “How do I change the strap on my N95 mask,” keep reading to learn a quick trick to make your mask more comfortable. We’ll explain everything you need to know and walk you through the step-by-step process.

Headband vs Ear Straps – What’s the Difference?

Face masks are made using two types of straps—headbands and ear straps. Most N95 masks are made with headband straps but a smaller percentage are made with ear straps. For many people, ear straps are more comfortable than headband straps because they don’t pull against the back of the head. But what exactly makes them different?

Headband Straps

Headband straps help N95 masks fit snuggly against the face. They have two elastic straps that stack one on top of the other and connect from the left to the right side of the mask. To wear a mask with headband straps, pull the elastic back and fit your head into the open space.

You must first pull your head through the bottom strap, allowing it to rest against the back of your neck. Then, pull the top strap back against the crown of your head. The tension made by stretching the elastic will hold the mask tautly against your face.

Ear Straps

Like headband straps, ear straps also help hold N95 masks close to the face. They have two elastic straps positioned on the left and right sides of the mask. The two pieces of elastic connect from the top to the bottom of the mask, making two loops for your ears.

To wear an N95 mask with ear straps, simply hold the mask up to your face and pull the loops over your ears. The tension made by stretching the elastic behind your ears will hold the mask tautly against your face.

Which Face Mask Straps are Better – Headbands or Ear Straps?

Both strap types can effectively hold an N95 mask close to your face. The FDA has approved both types for use against COVID-19 and you can find both options available for sale online and in stores. However, they come with a few pros and cons:

1) Comfort – Headbands tend to be less comfortable than ear straps. They put a lot of strain on the back of your neck and the crown of your head. Ear straps pull at your ears but are slightly more comfortable.

2) Waste – Headband straps are longer than ear straps and, therefore, make more waste. Ear straps are not as long because they don’t have as far to reach.

3) Usability – Headband straps are harder to wear than ear straps. You must fit your entire head through the bottom elastic band before you can put on the mask, whereas with ear straps, you can easily fit the elastic over your ears.  

Despite these limitations, you can convert your headband N95 masks to ear straps without much hassle.

How Do I Change the Strap on my N95 Mask?

If you have an N95 mask with headband straps but want to transform them into ear straps, you’ll need to following materials:

 A box cutter or razorblade
 A pair of pliers
 A pair of scissors

With these objects in hand, you can then start to modify your N95 mask. Follow these instructions to transform your headband straps into ear straps:

1) Locate the staples that hold the straps in place. They may be hidden behind a layer of fabric.
2) Slide a box cutter or razor blade underneath the staples to pry them loose.
3) Once loosened, use a pair of pliers to pry open the staples, being careful to not remove them completely.
4) Slide the straps out from under the staples and rearrange them. Feed one strap from the bottom staple to the top staple on the left side and feed the other from the bottom staple to the top staple on the right side.
5) Tightly squeeze the staples closed using the pliers and test the straps. If they are too loose, remove the mask, loosen one of the staples on each side, and cut the straps down to size using a pair of scissors.

It’s important that your mask fits correctly, otherwise, it won’t block 95% of particulate matter, as advertised.

If you don't want to deal with all of this, you can purchase N95 masks with convertible ear straps from Canopus here.

If you’re tired of your neck and head hurting from headband straps, convert them to ear straps easily with Convertible Canopus NIOSH N95 Masks. Be sure to size your straps for a tight fit and stay safe out there!