Many localities are going to Universal Masking recommendations. For example – as of today, my workplace is requiring everyone to wear surgical face masks. Use of face masks has been shown to prevent person to person transmission – so I know we’ve seen all so much information about masks: when to wear them, how to make them, why not to hoard them.
There’s a lot of good information out there, and some not so good, so today’s blog post will focus on some of the science behind face masks and proper care.
- Starting with the proper way to put masks on and take them off to avoid spreading of germs to yourself (or others).
To don (put the mask on):
- Perform hand hygiene (wash with soap and water or use hand sanitizer) before touching the mask.
- Touch the edges, loops and or/ties only – never the inside of the mask.
- If the mask has loops, loop the elastic around your ears
- If the mask has ties, tie bows around your head for easy removal. Make it’s secure
- Perform hand hygiene
Fit is important – try to adjust it so that there are minimal gaps around the nose, sides and chin area.
To doff (take the mask off)
- Perform hand hygiene
- Remove ear loops or undo bow
- Using ties or loops, place the mask in a paper bag to keep the mask for future use (The paper bag lets it air out)
- If you have a cloth mask – wash frequently with warm, soapy water and dry.
- Best materials for making masks at home
Supplies of surgical masks and N95 masks have been prioritized for health care workers, as they should be – so there are many nice patterns on the internet for making your own face mask. Yesterday, I shared no-sew mask making instructions that will do in a pinch here. But all these posts led me to think – are some fabrics found at home that work better than others?
Luckily for us, a group of researchers asked this very thing and published their results in a 2013 scientific paper in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. The article can be found at: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S1935789313000438 but here are the most important parts:
- The material used for surgical masks filters out around 96% of airborne particles
- Vacuum cleaner bags were almost as good (they filtered out around 94.4% of particles)
- The humble Tea towel did OK too – filtering 83.24% of particles in their tests.
- Cotton blend t-shirts filtered out around 75% of particles and 100% cotton T-shirt filtered out around 69% of particles
- Antimicrobial pillowcases were about 66% effective while regular pillowcases, linen and silk scarves were slightly less effective (around 60-62% effective in filtering out particles).
The really important thing to consider is fit though – none of the homemade face masks tested by this study fit as well as the surgical mask (most fit half as well) – making the surgical mask over 3 times better at blocking transmission of airborne particles than homemade masks.
The conclusion was that a homemade mask was not as good a choice as a manufactured surgical mask, but it would be better than no protection.
So… given this deep dive into the science of home mask making – how can you make your homemade masks more effective?
- Try sewing or inserting a thin flexible wire (like a pipe cleaner or extra long bag tie) into the nose section of your mask.
- Include lots of pleats for a good fit and make sure it fits well around your mouth and chin
- Include a coffee filter as an extra layer in your cloth masks (just pop inside, don’t in sew as you should remove these and dispose of after every use).
- The CDC has instructions for doing this in a no sew mask here:
Stay crafty and stay safe my friends!
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