Depending on where you are in the world, wearing a face mask has become part of the “new normal.” While people are looking to make fashionable coronavirus gear, scientists have finally figured out what it takes to stay protected. And the best part: you may have some of the materials they recommend at home.
When COVID-19 first swept over the nation, surgical and N95 masks were the first to sell out. Shortly after, the CDC recommended those be kept for medical personnel on the front lines. Since then, people have DIY’d face masks.
Some companies put a pause on the production of other goods and began making masks. However, others are hiking up the prices and capitalizing on the fear of COVID-19. So, to save you from spending extra money, here’s how to make a scientifically-approved and inexpensive mask to protect you from the coronavirus.
Researchers Make the Perfect Mask
Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago tested common materials in laboratory conditions and published their findings in an article on American Chemical Society‘s publication.
They investigated the mechanical filtration properties — how the fabric physically catches the particles, and electrostatic-based filtration — how the filter removes the particles from the air and keeps the aerosols inside the charged environment. These are important to consider with regard to a respiratory virus.
Their findings suggested that multiple layers of several different fabrics and materials work best to filter out particles. But, if the mask doesn’t fit properly, it won’t be of any use.
The researchers carried out their studies on cotton, silk, chiffon and flannels, as well as a combination of those materials.
“Overall, we find that combinations of various commonly available fabrics used in cloth masks can potentially provide significant protection against the transmission of aerosol particles,” the American Chemical Society Publication stated.
The experiment was carried out with an aerosol mixing chamber that can sample a number of aerosols in the air.
Dr. James S. Guy, clinical microbiologist from the Department of Population Health and Pathobiology at North Carolina State University found that coronavirus particles are between 80 and 120 nanometers in diameter.
The particles passing through the test-fabrics were between 10 nanometers and 10 micrometers. Their rationale was that if tiny particles don’t filter through, big ones won’t either.
What they found: “hybrid” fabrics work the best and filter out most particles.
Science Says: DIY Face Masks with “Hybrid” Fabrics
“We speculate that the enhanced performance of the hybrids is likely due to the combined effect of mechanical and electrostatic-based filtration,” the researchers wrote.
“The team found that with fabrics such as cotton, high thread count works the best,” Science Alert reported. “The smaller the holes, the fewer large particles can escape.”
During experimentation, they poked into their fabrics and created holes. The results showed the importance of proper fit.
The researchers concluded, “Our studies also imply that gaps (as caused by an improper fit of the mask) can result in over a 60% decrease in the filtration efficiency.”
Regardless of the hybrid materials you chose to use, make sure they fit properly.
DIY Face Masks Science — Sources
Scientists Have Figured Out The Best Materials to Use if You’re Making a Mask at Home
Characterization of a Coronavirus Isolated from a Diarrheic Foal
Aerosol Filtration Efficiency of Common Fabrics Used in Respiratory Cloth Masks