By Tia’Lavon Hill, Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local
As we continue our fight against the coronavirus, it seems like the world is hanging on every word from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, on how to best combat the virus. Recently, the CDC updated its guidelines to recommend that everyone in public, sick or not, cover their faces with fabric while saving medical-grade masks for health care workers. This announcement comes after multiple reports of medical workers all over the world, not having access to the supplies they need, such as gloves and masks. Now that the CDC has given the public the green light on wearing homemade cloth coverings, the question is which common materials are the most effective at filtering microscopic particles? Yes, any face covering can block many outgoing germs, however you could still be susceptible to incoming germs.
The CDC reports that a significant number of people are showing little to no symptoms, and there is also an incubation period when people who have contracted the virus, have not had it long enough for any symptoms to show. These factors make the need for facial coverings that are created from the right fabric, even more vital. The best homemade masks are constructed from a heavyweight “quilters cotton” with a thread count of at least 180, according to a study conducted by Dr Scott Segal, chair of anaesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health (in partnership with Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine). The quilters cotton fabric is thicker and tighter, which allows for fewer particles to pass through. One of the most common and yet effective materials used in the study, were 600-thread count pillowcases, or fabric similar to flannel pajamas when doubled up.
Scientists found that, when folded into four layers, high-thread count pillowcases offered up to 60% filtration. Using HEPA furnace filters, and vacuum cleaner bags were also among the best homemade alternatives. However, the least effective fabrics were scarves and cotton bandanas. If a bandana is all you have and you plan to be in public, layering it with a few coffee filters should prove to be more effective. For any other fabrics you may have at home, scientists say a simple light test can help you choose which of your options is the best mask material.
Dr Scott Segal told The New York Times, “Hold it up to a bright light. If light passes really easily through the fibers and you can almost see the fibers, it’s not a good fabric. If it’s a denser weave of thicker material and light doesn’t pass through it as much, that’s the material you want to use.” However no masks will be effective if they aren’t regularly washed after use. According to CDC guidelines, a simple regular cycle in a washing machine is sufficient for cleaning cloth masks.
Although, Dr. Segal advises avoiding bleach and harsher chemicals “until we know the effect on the fabric’s effectiveness.” It’s important to also note that when wearing cloth face coverings, it should fit snugly against the side of the face, and be secured with ties or ear loops. Since we have to wear these face masks, might as well wear them right.