Making Your Own Mask
With the Coronavirus in full swing, many of us have been forced to find ways to adapt to this new style of living. That means finding ways to work remotely, minimizing the amount of shopping we do in person, and socializing with friends and loved ones through video conferencing software.

It also means learning how to fashion garments that can keep us safe from the virus and hopefully stem the spread of it. One of the biggest changes in this regard is the widespread use of face masks. While face masks can’t completely prevent infection, they significantly lower the risk and are therefore advised by many governments, healthcare organizations, and charities.

What Are the Best Household Materials for Making Your Own Face Mask?

The problem? Face masks are hard to come by right now. With stocks in extremely high demand, many companies simply haven’t been able to keep up the supply. The good news is that there are ways around this problem. If you want to feel a little extra safe on your next shopping trip, you can use supplies from your own home to fashion a DIY face mask. But which materials will actually keep you safe?

What We Know

Fortunately, research has been conducted looking at precisely the kinds of mediums that will keep Coronavirus at bay. This research involved shooting Bacillus atrophaeus bacteria at masks made from different materials to see how much would pass through! This bacteria is 1 micron thin, making it extremely thin and making it a good test for wider purposes.

Nothing was as effective in this study as the surgical mask, which was capable of blocking 97% of 1-micron particles.
Other materials that did a good job though included:

  • Vacuum cleaner bags (95%)
  • Dish towels (83%)
  • Cotton blend t-shirts (74%)
  • Cotton t-shirt (69%)
  • Antimicrobial pillowcase (65%)
  • Scarf (62%)
  • Pillowcase (62%)

To be absolutely clear then, ordering a medical-grade surgical mask is the best thing you can do to keep yourself safe. Moreover, you should not consider using A4 paper that didn’t even make it into the studies!

Using This Advice

So with that in mind, what then is the best type of mask you can fashion from home? The answer is to use a dishtowel. While a vacuum cleaner bag may be useful, this would also be an expensive and impractical solution! Of course, we need to remember that the ideal substitute face mask shouldn’t only be one that is effective against the virus, but also one that is comfortable and practical to wear!

Using a dishcloth you will protect yourself form a smaller amount of the virus, but it will be better than nothing. Moreover, the same group found that you could actually improve the effectiveness of a dishcloth by doubling it up. In this scenario, a regular dishcloth could provide as much protection as 83%!

Better yet, if you take two folded dishcloths (essentially providing 4 layers in total), this will then provide you with a 97% effectiveness rate! That makes it just as effective as a surgical mask. Of course, in practice, this is less practical, and you might find that you leave gaps when trying to create your own mask with a dishcloth. Interestingly, doubling up a surgical mask has no additional benefit.

More Considerations

There are some other things to consider when looking at all this. For one, you might be wondering what the best method for fastening the face mask is. One common option is to use hair ties which you can loop through a hole in the material. If you take four layers of the dishcloth, cut them to a suitable width, and then make holes for hair ties to loop around the ears with, you will have a great makeshift mask!

Another option is simply to tie the dishcloth around your head. This is a less permanent solution but may prove to be more comfortable.

This research also shows us that if you are in a pinch (stepped onto a busy bus for instance), keeping your face covered by the top of a t-shirt or a scarf will offer some protection.

Finally, remember that you are never 100% protected. Your eyes will also be exposed for instance, and there is always a chance of the bacteria getting through the material (or onto your hands to be transferred later). Always observe the social distancing rules, and remember that it is only for a while. This too shall pass.

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