I recently had the opportunity to test a Bioscarf. Yes, it’s a scarf, and everyone knows I like scarves. I’ve worn them all my life. I used to love alpaca wool scarves and find their comfort impeccable. But then, I was given a Polartec scarf, a polyester product that strives to duplicate wool without the itching or scratching. I have come to prefer my Polartec scarves, which are also easy to clean and dry.
I like long scarves too, but not the very long scarves that get in the way. I cannot forget the story of the famous dancer, Isadora Duncan: She loved very, very long silk scarves, and she enjoyed wearing them in her convertible. She was 50 years old at the time she was driving in September 1927 in Nice, France, and her enormously long scarf got caught in the rear wheel and axle of her car. It was a ghastly accident and she was strangled to death. (When you read about Duncan, you’d think her great legacy is that she had a famous dancing career, but the first thing you read about is that she was strangled to death by her own scarf.) I don’t drive a convertible, and I cannot imagine wearing a scarf that must have been 10 or 12 feet long. In addition, the Bioscarf is actually good for you—not a potential hazard.BIOSCARF ORIGIN
During a trip to China, the husband of the Bioscarf’s creator got sick— most likely from the poor air quality (according to the Chinese doctor who treated him). When asked how he could protect himself from getting sick on future visits, the doctor suggested using a medical-type mask. When the husband related the story to his wife, the idea for an effective, but fashionable, form of protection was born.TESTING THE BIOSCARF
The Bioscarf I tested measures 7 feet long and 9 inches wide. That’s big, but not too big to get caught in your car’s or motorcycle’s wheels. However, bicyclists should be careful.
I like its size. You have enough scarf to know you’re wearing a scarf and not forget it. It comes in white, olive, black and camo, and because I had the choice of color, I couldn’t resist the camo. But its main selling point is not the size; it’s what’s hidden inside the fabric.
The Bioscarf is actually a stylish air mask that keeps your neck and head cozy while filtering out unwanted air contaminants, germs, second-hand smoke, pollen and other allergens and irritants. This can protect you from colds, flus, pneumonia, tuberculosis and allergic reactions. Bioscarf is the first scarf with an N95 air filter layer built in.
When tested by Nelson Labs (a leading global provider of medical and pharmaceutical tests) against normal masks and respirators, the Bioscarf outperformed some of the most popular mask filters available today. It had a 99.75 percent average filtration efficiency of 0.3 micron test particles.
I’VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO WEAR THIS SCARF IN COLD WEATHER AND FOUND IT TO BE A BIT WARMER THAN A COMPARABLE SCARF. THIS IS PROBABLY BECAUSE IT’S NOT JUST A SINGLE LAYER OF FABRIC; IT HAS THREE.
In addition to doing its job effectively, the Bioscarf is made from sustainable materials. Post-consumer, recycled PET water bottles go into the polyester fabric, while the signature labels are made from recycled PVC. It is also built to be long lasting and reusable, meaning fewer disposable air filters in the landfill. And this filter is reusable: Simply wash the scarf by hand after use from time to time.
If you’re in a situation for which you might otherwise put on a face mask, you can just snugly wrap the scarf over your mouth and nose and breathe through it. Maybe you’re an allergy sufferer, visiting somewhere with poor air quality; or you’re on a bus or plane, and a lot of passengers are sneezing and coughing. Maybe you’re on a campout, and the smoke from the campfire is excessive. The Bioscarf will give you some protection.
I like the multi-use aspect of the Bioscarf. When I’m wearing mine, it gives me the feeling of being protected, as if I’m living in a Mad Max, Book of Eli or Blade Runner world. Of course, that’s a crazy idea, because everyone in those futuristic, dystopian societies would probably be wearing rags. Still, the Bioscarf is one of those multi-purpose garments you’ll be glad you purchased. It’s functional, stylish in a way that stays below the radar and provides a layer of protection other scarves just don’t provide. The Bioscarf costs about $45 and is available at the company’s website (see below) and Amazon.INNOCUOUS APPEARANCE
No one blinks an eye when I wear my Bioscarf. To the average passerby, it is just another scarf. You don’t look as if you’re wearing combat or medical gear. Even though I have been wearing the camouflage version, it’s not too different from what I ordinarily wear, so no one regards it as “militaristic.” Besides, camo has really become a fashion statement, so it’s now a normal fashion choice for many.
IF YOU’RE IN A SITUATION FOR WHICH YOU MIGHT OTHERWISE PUT ON A FACE MASK, YOU CAN JUST SNUGLY WRAP THE SCARF OVER YOUR MOUTH AND NOSE AND BREATHE THROUGH IT.
Still, the camo version consists of dark tones of green and brown and works well with most wardrobes. If you don’t care for camo, choose one of the solid colors.COMFORT
I’ve had the opportunity to wear this scarf in cold weather and found it to be a bit warmer than a comparable scarf. This is probably because it’s not just a single layer of fabric; it has three. The scarf is not thick, however, and it has the comfortable feel of a “normal” scarf. Its length is a bit longer than most scarves, so you have just a bit more fabric that you can wrap over your head or around your neck or face.USE AND CARE
Although I have no connection to the Bioscarf’s manufacturer, I have been asked a lot of questions by those who’ve seen me wearing it. One person asked how I would know if the filtering aspect was still working. I thought that question was a bit unusual, so I asked them how they would know whether or not a standard face mask was still filtering air. Of course, similar to a water filter, the sure sign is reduced airflow or increasing difficulty getting air through the scarf. After a day of work on a dusty construction site or wearing such a mask in an area with very high air pollution, you just put on another mask. You never really know if it’s “full” or not.
• Weight: 19.4 ounces
• Length: 84 inches
• Width: 9 inches
• Material: 100 percent recycled polyester
• Washing instructions: Hand wash only
In the case of the Bioscarf, you simply hand wash it in warm water and let it dry. The inner layer of the scarf is the filtering layer, and washing the scarf helps remove any trapped particulate matter. Based on your usage, you’ll have to use your own judgment as to when and how often to wash the scarf. Remember, the scarf has a much greater surface area than a mask’s filter, so it would make sense to use multiple areas of the scarf before having to clean it. (That said, if you’ve just completed an intercontinental flight, it might be a good time to give it a quick wash.) The manufacturer instructions say to hand wash the Bioscarf, but I’d suggest warm water with a simple detergent without colors, dyes or fragrances. (I use Ivory dishwashing liquid.) Gently squeeze the entire length of the scarf while it is in warm, soapy water. Rinse it in fresh water and hang it in the sun to dry.
THE BIOSCARF IS ACTUALLY A STYLISH AIR MASK THAT KEEPS YOUR NECK AND HEAD COZY WHILE FILTERING OUT UNWANTED AIR CONTAMINANTS, GERMS, SECOND-HAND SMOKE, POLLEN AND OTHER ALLERGENS AND IRRITANTS. THIS CAN PROTECT YOU FROM COLDS, FLUS, PNEUMONIA, TUBERCULOSIS AND ALLERGIC REACTIONS.
The manufacturer attaches a label to every Bioscarf with instructions to hand wash only and not to dry clean, tumble dry, use bleach or iron the scarf. Be careful not to exert too much lateral pull on the scarf, because you might stretch and decrease the efficiency of the filter material.
I was also asked if there was an “inside” and “outside” to the scarf so that if you needed to use it as an actual filter, you’d know which side to breathe through. There is no difference. If you’re wearing the scarf and need to protect yourself from smoke or fumes, just wrap the scarf over your mouth and nose.
Is it possible to breathe in trapped pollutants if you wear the scarf backward from the previous way you wore it? In the simplest terms, once you breathe through the scarf, there are clean and unclean sides, so you should always wear it with the same orientation—at least between washings. The filter layer is the barrier between you and the impurities it protects you from, so why would you orient the scarf so that the filtered impurities are on the same side as your mouth and nose?
IF YOU LIVE IN ONE OF THESE AREAS OF HIGHER AIR POLLUTION OR ARE CONCERNED ABOUT EXPOSURE TO AIRBORNE COMMUNICABLE ILLNESSES AND DISEASES … THE BIOSCARF MIGHT BE JUST WHAT YOU NEED.
Research over the past two decades has shown that short-term exposure to common air pollution worsens existing lung and heart disease and is linked to diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and cancer.
Long-term exposure increases the risks. If you live in one of these areas of higher air pollution or are concerned about exposure to airborne communicable illnesses and diseases—or you’re simply looking for a soft, warm scarf—the Bioscarf might be just what you need.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August, 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide.