November 20, 2020

How to Make a High Protection Homemade Face Mask, According to Science

Avoid getting and spreading COVID-19.

Wearing a mask is the norm, and we've become accustomed to keeping a pair or two tucked away in our pockets. The mass production of masks have led to small businesses joining the mask manufacturing industry and DIYers making makeshift masks at home. But are all cloth masks effective at preventing us from getting or spreading COVID-19? What makes a good face mask?

Masks: Unfiltered

Some cloth masks don't filter as well as medical masks, but there's more to the story. Studies have shown that all masks, including homemade cloth masks, have a certain degree of ability to block or filter particles or droplets in the air. However, a face mask's filtering ability depends on several factors - the type of fabric its made of, thread count, number of layers, and water resistance. In general, the more layers and thread count, the better. A fine weave and water-resistant fabric also seem to provide more protection.

A face mask's filtering ability depends on several factors: the type of fabric its made of, thread count, number of layers, and water resistance.

In a study comparing a mask made of a cotton t-shirt with a medical mask, a team of researchers found the cotton mask to have one third the efficacy of a medical mask. But when a homemade cloth mask made of 4 layers of kitchen paper and a layer of cloth was compared with an N95 mask, the researchers found the cloth mask to be just as effective in blocking flu aerosol as the N95 mask, a mask that filters at least 95% of airborne particles.

How you wear it matters

What a mask is made of is just as important as how it's worn. Like a finely tailored suit, a face mask should fit snugly. A poorly fitted mask could create gaps around the face, allowing air to flow through the gap instead of through the mask. This would make the mask ineffective at filtering the air of bacterial or viral particles. The CDC points out that once a mask is on, it's best to avoid touching it. But if you have to make adjustments, wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly before making your move.
World Health Organization Vitamin D

Wear your mask correctly - CDC.

Keeping a cloth mask clean and decontaminated is another hot topic burning on the minds of many. Clean a reusable face mask often by throwing it in the laundry or hand-washing it separately. Some face masks are intended for one-time use and should be tossed after wearing.

Face masks can prevent the spread of infection.

Currently, only half of all Americans wear face masks when they're out in public. At this rate, it's estimated that a total of 510,000 Americans may die from COVID-19 by March 2021. But Dr. Francis Collin, the Director of the National Institute of Health, says that "if 95% of people in the U.S. began wearing masks in public right now, the death toll would drop by March from the projected 510,000 to about 380,000...If mask-wearers increased to just 85 percent, the model predicts it would save about 96,000 lives across the country".


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