Homemade Face masks – DIY Coronavirus Protective Measures?

by | Beauty

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a guide on how to protect yourself from the coronavirus. Among other advice, they have published information on the use of face masks (SOURCE). The bottom line was that if you are sick, you should wear a mask. If not, you don’t need to unless you are caring for someone who is ill and is not able to wear a face mask. The reasoning is that face masks may become in short supply and should be mainly available for caregivers. However, since the situation is developing very dynamically, and in different countries face masks (commercial or homemade) became already mandatory, here is a post discussing DIY face masks. You can find here what material to use, easy tutorials without sewing, how to wear them properly, how to sterilize them, etc.

 

DISCLAIMER! I am not a doctor, healthcare worker, nor a scientist. Just a regular person interested in current events. The content of this website is based on public resources, and it is not intended to replace a consultation and/or medical advice given by a qualified health care provider, physician, government, or any other specialized institution.

 

Table of Contents

–   Best household material for a DIY face mask
–   How to use a face mask properly
     >   How to wash your hands thoroughly
–   How to sterilize a homemade mask
     >  Sterilizing 100% cotton face masks in washing machine
     >  Sterilizing 100% cotton face masks with boiling water
–   How to store a homemade mask
–   How to make a homemade mask – SEWING
–   How to make a homemade mask – NO SEW
     >   Scissors and T-shirt
     >   Scarf and hair ties
     >   Single-use paper towel or tissue mask
–   Inspiration

IMPORTANT NOTE

Even though homemade masks are not suitable for protecting oneself from the virus (also stated by the CDC), it helps to decrease the spreading of the virus from the infected person to others. This results in slowing the epidemic, protecting the vulnerable, and avoiding overloading of the health system.

Best household material for a DIY face mask

When making a face mask, the first thing to consider is which material to use. In 2013 a study carried out at Cambridge University (SOURCE) examined the efficacy of homemade masks – whether they would protect people in influenza (flu) pandemic. They have tested:

  • 100 % cotton T-shirt
  • Scarf
  • Tea towel
  • Pillowcase
  • Antimicrobial Pillowcase
  • Surgical mask (non-household)
  • Vacuum cleaner bag
  • Cotton mix
  • Linen
  • Silk

It was found that the most suitable household materials for a DIY face mask are the pillowcase and the 100 % cotton T-shirt. Furthermore, it was stated that the stretchy quality of the T-shirt made it the more preferable option since it was more likely to provide a better. The 100 % cotton T-shirt won.

Note: The T-shirt, pillowcase, and tea towel were also tested in two layers. The result was an increase in the pressure drop, which is not desirable. Pressure drop determines the comfort (resistance to breathing) and fit between the mask and the face (potential leakage of air around the mask). If a mask has a too high resistance to breathing, it will impose additional breathing load on the wearer – this is especially inconvenient if the wearer already has difficulty breathing. Also, the additional breathing load may cause leakage of the air around the mask. Only in the case of the tea towel, the two layers significantly increased the filtration efficiency, which was marginally higher than that of the face mask. Despite this fact, taking into account all the findings, one layer of 100 % cotton T-shirt was still the winner.

It is important to notice that this study (SOURCE) concluded that even though a protective mask may reduce the likelihood of infection, it doesn’t eliminate the risk. Even the best mask in the world will have a little effect if other preventative measures are not taken – such as isolation of the sick, hand hygiene, social distancing (6 ft / 2 m), sneezing or coughing into a sleeve, elbow or single-use tissue (throw it out right away), not touching your face [note by the editor], etc. A homemade face mask should be viewed as the last alternative if commercial face masks are sold out. Homemade masks provide little protection to the wearer from microorganisms from people with respiratory diseases. The researches concluded: “we would not recommend the use of homemade face masks as a method of reducing transmission of infection from aerosols.” Because of that, we should not fall into a false sense of protection, which might encourage risk-taking or make us forget other hygiene measures (SOURCE).

 

How to use a face mask properly

A face mask has little effect if other preventative measures are not taken. On this webpage, the World Health Organization has published a detailed manual on how to use a mask. Below you can watch their video focused on single-use face masks. [Edited on 8th April 2020: Since the original WHO video has been deleted, below you can find a new version.]

YouTube video

And here is one more video with a more realistic showcase of using a singl-use mask.

YouTube video

 

Below you can find a list of steps on how to wear a face mask properly. It consists of steps recommended by WHO and steps advised to follow when using a multi-use DIY face mask. DISCLAIMER! I am not a doctor, healthcare worker, nor a scientist. Just a regular person interested in current events. The content of this website is based on public resources, and it is not intended to replace a consultation and/or medical advice given by a qualified health care provider, physician, government, or any other specialized institution.

  1. Before putting on a mask wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
  2. Put on the face mask making sure that it fits well (no gaps between your face and the face mask).
  3. While wearing the mask, don’t touch it. If you do, wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer (otherwise you will spread germs from your mask with your hands all around you).
  4. Change single-use masks as soon as it becomes damp. Don’t re-use single-use masks.
  5. Before taking off the face mask, wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub (if you have touched something contaminated, you don’t want to spread that around your head).
  6. Take off the mask from behind not touching the front of the mask (by ties, cords, or whatever type of attachments you have).
  7. a) If you have a single-use mask – throw it out immediately to a closed bin.
    b) If you have a 100 % cotton mask sterilize it (manual below).
  8. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.

 

How to wash your hands thoroughly

YouTube video

 

How to sterilize a homemade mask

The advantage a 100 % cotton face mask is the fact that you can sterilize it and use it multiple times. The most relevant source on how to sterilize a face mask that I have found is a study, which tested how to inactivate SARS-CoV. It is not the virus that the world is dealing with right now, but it is the best information I found (SOURCE). It was found that:

“If protein-containing solutions are to be inactivated, heat treatment at 60°C for at least 30 min must be used.”

Based on that information, if you will be using a washing machine:

 

Sterilizing 100% cotton face masks in washing machine

Based on the study mentioned above, if you will use a washing machine, it seems that the best practice is to use as high temperature as you can (assumingly cotton 90 °C / 194 °F), but min. 60 °C/ 140 °F. After that, according to a Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University (SOURCE), iron the mask on the highest temperature optimally with the highest steam setting on while it is still damp.

 

Sterilizing 100% Cotton Face masks with Boiling Water

Another more economical way is to boil the mask in a pot with a lid. According to the Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk Univeristy (SOURCE) you should boil the mask for 5 minutes and then let it cool down in the pot. This process prolongs the effect of high temperature and also prevents possible scalding or burns. After the water has cooled down, squeeze out the excess water from the mask, let it dry, and when it is still damp, iron it on the highest temperature, preferably using a steam iron with the steam on the highest setting.

 

How to store a homemade mask

You can store your sterilized face masks that are ready to wear, in a plastic box with a lid, that can be washed (SOURCE).

 

How to make a homemade mask – SEWING

Since I am not even a hobby sewist, I am not going to post here many sewing tutorials. If you go on YouTube, you will find many options to choose from. Here is just one LINK to a Deaconess Health System, which has already asked the public to sew face masks for their staff fighting the coronavirus with a video tutorial on how to sew them.

 

How to make a homemade mask – NO SEW

If you are not a skilled sewist, you can still make a DIY face mask. Below you can find two super simple tutorials on how to create a face mask with everyday household items and without a sewing machine. Even though the tutorials are not in English, it is mainly visual, so it should not be an issue.

Scissors and T-shirt

YouTube video

Scarf and hair ties

YouTube video

Single-use paper towel or tissue mask

YouTube video

 

Before making such a mask and before putting it on, don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly. Also, don’t forget to follow the steps on how to wear a mask properly (see above). This type of mask is intended for short-term single-use. Consider making multiple masks, so that you can have them ready to use throughout the day. Just store the unused masks in a sterile sachet.

 

Inspiration

In our country, a national movement has taken place, where many people started to make DIY – homemade face masks. They are making them not only for themselves or their family members but also for people around them, medical staff and so on. We can also use a webpage (LINK) with an interactive map that unites people that sew the masks with people that need them. Maybe you can create something like that, or you know someone that can?

 

DISCLAIMER! I am not a doctor, healthcare worker, nor a scientist. Just a regular person interested in current events. The content of this website is based on public resources, and it is not intended to replace a consultation and/or medical advice given by a qualified health care provider, physician, government, or any other specialized institution.

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2 Comments

  1. tessa d

    awesome all three

    Reply
    • Trisha

      Thanks :)! I am glad that you liked them.

      Reply

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