As you are probably aware, the CDC has recently reversed its recommendations for the wearing of face masks in public. Going forward, we should all be wearing face masks when we are out in public. And not the medical grade masks because those are reserved for healthcare professionals due to widespread shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment).
The change in the CDC guidelines is based on the recognition that the virus can be spread by asymptomatic individuals. The severe shortage of test kits makes containment of the coronavirus immeasurably more difficult because if you are infected and asymptomatic, you won’t know it. Even if you are symptomatic, there’s a good chance that you won’t be tested due to test kit shortages. Either way, wearing a mask will provide a measure of protection to others.
While there is certainly a shortage of medical grade masks, there is no shortage of DIY videos and tutorials on how to make your own. So there is no reason not to follow the new guidelines. Whether you are a home sewer, a crafty individual or someone who has never DIY’ed anything in your life there is a video or tutorial just for you.
Effective face masks must cover your nose and mouth. Equally important is the fabric you choose. According to the CDC, the best materials are thick cottons or, even better, cottons with a high thread count. Consider cutting up a cotton pillowcase with a high thread count. Using four layers of a high thread count pillowcase can provide you with 60% filtration. Surgical masks filter out particles at 62%-65%. If you have to sacrifice your 300 thread count pillowcase for the sake of your community, consider it a small price to pay.
There is a simple way to ascertain whether or not fabric is suitable for a good face mask—hold it up to bright light. If you can easily see through it, then particles such as viral pathogens can also move with ease through the fabric. Denser fabrics will not allow as much light to penetrate which means particles in the air cannot pass through the fabric as easily. Bandanas are popular when it comes to making a quick and easy mask but bandanas are made from very thin fabric so using them is not the best choice. If you must use a bandana, make sure to fold it over at least four times, then grab a coffee filter and cut a piece that will fit inside the front of your mask. Insert the filter in between the layers of fabric.
It is best to use cotton fabrics for your masks because the virus dries and dies quickly on the surface of breathable natural fibers like cotton. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, lycra, and spandex are the worst choice because they are made of plastic which is a material far more hospitable to the coronavirus. You might be tempted to use the fabric from an old pair of workout leggings because of the stretch and comfort. But don’t do it because the coronavirus can survive for days on plastic surfaces!
Lastly, it’s important to wash your mask after every wearing which means you will need several in your accessories drawer.
Be well, wash your hands a lot, and stay safe!