Masks for COVID-19

Cathy Shan (’22)

As most people stay inside their homes, trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, one of the most essential items that everyone must have is masks. However, as this epidemic worsens, masks are becoming more and more valuable. They are being sold out in stores all across the U.S. Several areas,however, are now requiring people to wear masks at all times. As  they are becoming harder and harder to find, many people are now creating DIY masks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most effective face mask to prevent you from getting sick. 

Fabric

There are several different materials that can be used to make a face mask. However, there are certain materials that will be more effective in making a face mask than others. When making a face mask, choose fabrics that are thick and tightly woven to minimize any pores (holes) in the fabric, which will  in turn reduce the  number of particles that you will breathe in. However, if a mask is too thick, it will be hard to breathe through the mask, which could negatively impact your heart, especially for the elderly. Masks should only resist someone’s breathing, not stop someone from breathing entirely. Also  choose fabrics that can easily conform to the shape of your face, as they can prevent gaps on the side of your mask. In addition, avoid using old fabrics, as the constant washing and drying may have stretched out the pores. The best fabrics to use are those in T-shirts and pillowcases, as these are thick, but not thick enough to make you have difficulty breathing. Professor Koehler from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggests folding the fabric in multiple layers to create a more effective mask.

Filtration

Adding a layer of paper towel between the fabrics of a homemade mask has shown to be more effective than only having a fabric mask. Studies have shown that adding a single layer of paper towel in between masks captured 23% of particles that are 0.3 micrometers in size. In comparison, cloth masks can only prevent particles that are at least 80 micrometers in size. Adding a second layer of paper towel in between the masks increased the particle capture to 33%. However, some people place actual surgical masks in between the layers of the cloth masks. Placing surgical masks in between the layers of the cloth masks is more effective than just merely placing paper towels in between the layers of the mask, as surgical masks have extremely small pores. But, if you don’t have access to a surgical mask, placing paper towels in between the layers of a mask will still be more effective than only having a fabric mask. 

Cleaning Homemade Masks

The moment you get home from grocery shopping or any other outdoor errands, be sure to toss your mask in the washer and dryer before you wear it again. Although you may think that you did not come into contact with COVID-19, there is still a chance that the virus is on your mask. Run your mask through the washer and dryer to remove any of those particles. If you don’t have access to a washer and dryer, you can put the mask in a paper bag and leave it in a warm place for 2 days. After 2 days, the virus will become inactive and it will be safe for you to wear again. 

Be sure to wear masks whenever you’re outside to prevent the spread. Stay home, stay safe, and most importantly, stay healthy. 

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