Homemade masks: Study tests various fabrics

Homemade masks: Study tests various fabrics

Written by Timothy Huzar on September 29, 2020 — Fact checked by Catherine Carver, MPH

A new study demonstrates that the fabrics typically used in homemade face masks effectively block droplets that could contain SARS-CoV-2.


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New research has found that the typical materials in homemade facemasks effectively block droplets that may carry SARS-CoV-2.

The research, which appears in the journal Extreme Mechanics Letters, reinforces current studies on the efficacy of homemade face masks for blocking aerosols that could transmit SARS-CoV-2.

Masks

Until scientists produce an effective vaccine, researchers recommend that various behavioral changes are key to reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

As well as maintaining physical distance from others and regularly washing hands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend people wear masks.

Mask-wearing is important as SARS-CoV-2 is spread by people projecting saliva and other respiratory liquids when they speak, cough, or sneeze.

This projected liquid potentially carries the virus, which another person can pick up if they touch a surface that it lands on, or if people directly inhale the liquid.

This liquid can expel as either droplets or an aerosol, and scientists believe that both can transmit the virus.

Aerosols are tiny particles that can hang in the air, potentially traveling many meters, whereas droplets are larger and fall to the floor more rapidly.

Experts say people can reduce this type of transmission by wearing masks. However, in justifying their work, the authors argue that while there has been much research into the effect of masks on reducing aerosol transmission, there are fewer studies that look at droplet transmission.

In the present study, the researchers wanted to focus on the role of homemade face masks in blocking droplet transmission. This is important because demand for medical face masks regularly outstrips supply, potentially preventing medical professionals and caregivers from accessing this vital kit.

As a consequence, both the CDC and WHO provide advice on making face masks at home.

People can create masks with various materials, so understanding how effective they are — and how many layers are necessary for them to be effective — is important.

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