DIY Cloth Face Mask
With highly contagious coronavirus (COVID19) rapidly spreading throughout the world, many people are shopping for surgical masks to protect against this dangerous disease.
The sudden increase in demand for “Personal Protective Equipment” (PPE) and the interrupted supply lines in China have led to a critical shortage of small particle filtering face masks (N-95s) and fitted rectangular sneeze guards (“surgical masks”).
News reports, appropriately seeking to reserve limited supplies of these disposable items for medical institutions, have been asking people not to purchase these items. Public officials have been quoted suggesting that face coverings can’t help prevent the spread of this new virus.
The truth is more complicated:
COVID19 is spread from person-to-person in droplets of moisture, mucus and saliva from people with infections. Coughing, sneezing, and even normal breathing put these virus particles into the air. One sneeze can put out thousands of droplets.
People standing less than 6 feet away may become covered with these virus particles while they are still in the air. After the droplets fall, the virus particles can remain active for up to nine days.
Infection occurs when someone breathes in airborne droplets, or when they touch their mouth, nose or eyes with hands covered in virus particles that have fallen out of the air onto counters, hand rails, floors or other surfaces.
Wearing a face mask helps stop people from becoming infected in two ways:
1) By blocking most airborne droplets filled with virus from being inhaled
2) By stopping the wearer from touching their own mouths and noses.
Studies have shown that medical professional using surgical face masks correctly get 80% fewer infections than those who don’t.
So why the mixed messages?
First, because the protection only comes when the masks are used properly. They must be put on clean, taken off carefully, and paired with rigorous hand washing, and the discipline not to touch the face.
Second, because gaps around the masks and between the fibers in the masks, even in commercial surgical masks, are too large to block all viruses. Sneeze and cough droplets are usually between 7 and 100 microns. Surgical masks and some cloth masks will block 7 micron particles but the COVID19 virus particles are 0.06 to 0.14 microns.
So why should you make your own face masks?
1) In the event you become sick, having a supply of masks at home will give some level of protection to friends and family while you seek medical advice. It will certainly be better than no mask at all (see research notes).
2) By making your own, and hopefully for family and friends, you will be decreasing demand on limited supplies of industrially manufactured, disposables, which are desperately needed by hospitals and nursing homes.
3) These comfortable, curved shaped masks rest closer to the face, with fewer gaps, than rectangular surgical masks.
4) Our homemade designs are washable, making them environmentally friendly.
Mask 1 is fitted, with 2 layers of fabric and a pocket between them for an optional filter (see research links for info on filters). It is held on by elastic ear loops. Elastic can also be threaded to fit around the head.
Mask 2 is fitted, with 2 layers but no pocket, and is easier to make.
seam allowances are ¼” unless noted
MASK 1 & 2 supplies (child, regular and large size):
8″ x 12″ fabric outer layer
8″ x 12″ fabric lining layer
3” piece of soft wire (this can be decorative wire as shown, picture wire, or a pipe cleaner doubled over)
approx. 22” of elastic cord (child size length 10″, regular size length 11-12″, large size length 13″)
WHAT KIND OF FABRIC?
You can choose any tightly woven cotton or cotton/poly fabric you like. Hold it up to the light to see how tight the weave is. Use the same fabric for outer and lining if you want, or use different ones to help you remember which side is clean and which dirty.
The research (see links at the end) shows 100% cotton having some effectiveness. Cotton/polyester blends may have additional properties of repelling water, making them better barriers to keep droplets from soaking through outer layers.
Don’t use stretchy, sequined or velvet material.
Wash all fabrics before sewing to pre-shrink, and to assure you are working with the most sanitary materials possible.