Everyone knows that medical supplies like masks and gowns are hard to come by while the Chinese COVID-19 coronavirus sweeps America. While we are waiting for manufacturers to catch up to the need, many Americans with sewing machines are whipping up DIY masks and donating them to their local hospitals. But the effort has also sparked some criticism from naysayers who are convinced it’s a waste of time. But is it? I looked into it and found a study comparing homemade masks with the professional-grade masks and the results are undeniable.
The researchers asked volunteers to make their own masks using cotton t-shirts and a sewing machine, using a simple protocol they’d devised. Next, they performed a fit test to test how well they could capture particles down to 0.02 microns. They compared the DIY masks against surgical masks.
The homemade cotton masks captured 50% of 0.02-1 micron particles, compared with 80% for the surgical mask. Although the surgical masks captured 30% more particles, the cotton masks did surprisingly well. The researchers concluded that homemade masks would be better than nothing.
But that’s not the end of the story. Masks made out of tea towels produced better results, blocking 60% of the micron particles. Further testing showed that as subjects wore the mask for a longer period of time and as moisture increased on the mask, the micron particle capture increased by 5%.
While the DIY masks are not as effective as the surgical masks, they are much better than nothing and can fill the gap while our medical professionals wait for the cavalry. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube that include filtering material that could be even more effective than the plain tea towel mask.
Megan Fox is the author of “Believe Evidence; The Death of Due Process from Salome to #MeToo,” and host of The Fringe podcast. Follow on Twitter @MeganFoxWriter