Who would have thought this was a post we’d need to write at the beginning of 2020? Safe to say, not us.
For fun, we looked it up, and apparently, we weren’t alone in our assumptions. Here’s a look using Google Trends at how popular the search term “DIY face mask” has been since the beginning of the year.
Yeah, that escalated quickly.
There are a couple of reasons why making masks at home out of what you hae is a good idea right now.
- The first being that masks are largely sold out at the moment. Since coronavirus really started to shut things down towards the beginning of March, stores have struggled to keep inventory of masks.
- Even when there is inventory on surgical masks, that kind of equipment is better reserved for front line workers like healthcare workers and other essential employees who are risking their well-being every day to serve others. So, for runs to the grocery store or the pharmacy, DIY masks will do 😉
So, what should I make a mask out of? We’ll take a look at a Cambridge University study that tested the effectiveness of homemade masks against disease, which tested everything from vacuum cleaner bags to silk to t-shirts on their ability to prevent disease.
*A note regarding masks: A protective mask may reduce the likelihood of infection, but it will not eliminate the risk, particularly when a disease has more than one route of transmission. So, even if you’re wearing a mask, please, please practice proper safety etiquette. Wash your hands, wipe down surfaces, and keep your distance, please.
Picking a Face Mask Material
“The pillowcase and the 100% cotton t-shirt were found to be the most suitable household materials for an improvised face mask. The slightly stretchy quality of the t-shirt made it the more preferable choice for a face mask as it was considered likely to provide a better fit.” - Cambridge University Study
When looking for a material to make a homemade mask, you’ll want to find materials that strike a balance between breathability and filtration.
Per a Wake Forest University study, if you pick a material that’s too thick –– say, a vacuum bag –– though it won’t let any particles through, you’ll actually end up breathing through the sides of the mask, not through the material, thus inhaling unfiltered air.
However, you also don’t want to go too light, either. The Wake Forest team suggests holding the fabric up to a bright light. If a lot of light comes through the cloth, it’s probably not the best choice.
Here’s a chart from a Washington Post article ranking different materials on a graph, based on a study from Cambridge University.
You’ll also want to consider fit when choosing a material. If a material isn’t particularly stretchy or amenable, it may not fit your face quite as snug as it should.
The Best At-Home Face Mask Materials
The mixture of fit, filtration, and breathability led the Cambridge University study to conclude the 100% cotton t-shirt and the pillowcase to be the top two at-home protective mask materials.
“The pillowcase and the 100% cotton t-shirt were found to be the most suitable household materials for an improvised face mask. The slightly stretchy quality of the t-shirt made it the more preferable choice for a face mask as it was considered likely to provide a better fit,” the study concluded.
- 100% Cotton T-Shirt
- Cotton/Polyester T-Shirt
- Tea Towel
To create your own face mask, make sure you download Real Thread's no-sew t-shirt face mask template and cut your own our of a t-shirt you have laying around the house.