Will a homemade face mask protect me? Should I sew a face mask and wear it?
First of all, if you are considering wearing a mask in an area of the world not requiring it yet, good for you! Homemade masks may not protect as well as N95 masks but that doesn’t render them useless, not by a long shot.
If you have ever watched the MythBusters episode on germs spreading at a dinner party you noticed that not only were germs all over the table and guests hands by the end of the party, but also the germs all over their faces. Why? Because we humans tend to touch our faces without much thought about it.
If you wear a mask when you are out and you touch an infected surface, you will have less of a chance getting it on your face, if you have a mask on. And if you have kids, you know that kids always have their hand on their faces, in their mouths and on their siblings faces..and they touch everything. There is no way to monitor everything they touch and if they then touched their face – but a mask may help stop some of it.
Also, when you wear a mask you have less of a chance of forgetting to stay back from people and social distance. A mask can be a simple reminder that things are not normal and you must social distance as Jackie Greenizan reminded us in her interview with us about COVID-19 Protocols in Shanghai.
Since we can spread the virus long before we are symptomatic we should all probably assume we are contagious and wear a mask in public to protect others. Think of the doctors and nurses you know. It would be a way of thinking about their health by wearing a mask and slowing the spread. The less people getting sick means the less infected people they come in contact with.
And really, as long as you are not using surgical or medical grade masks, reserved for those who are sick and for the health workers, then why wouldn’t you wear a homemade mask?
There is a recent study of the effectiveness of homemade masks by Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in partnership with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. An NBC news article discusses the test and reported that Dr. Segal tested different materials to see which ones rated best for breathability and which also best filtered small particles like viruses. His study found that when homemade masks were made with two layers of a heavy cotton or quilters cotton with a thread count of at least 180, along with a thick tight weave it performed best.(1)
Fabric that lets a lot of light through would be less protective but if you add an internal layer of flannel it will protect better than without the extra layer.(1)
In Dr. Segal’s study he looked at particles down to 0.3 microns which would be a large virus. He found the best fabrics he tested filtered 72 percent of particle which is comparable to regular surgical masks that only filtered 62 to 65 percent. N95 masks filter 95 percent of those particles which is why they are used by medical professionals.
It looks like that with the tightest weave fabric you could protect yourself and your family from at least over even 60% of particles…why wouldn’t you? That is a reduction in possible transmission.
The sooner we stop the spread of the coronavirus the sooner we can all go back to work, school and play. If that means pulling out the sewing machine or contacting local sewing groups and asking for a mask – let’s just do it.
Below are links to patterns and lists of facilities that are taking homemade masks. If you are a sewer please join the FB group to let other’s know what you are making and any tips. If you would like to purchase fabric non medical masks here is our affiliate link to Amazon.com where they have many fabric masks in stock.
Healthcare Facilities that would like homemade masks:
Homemade Masks – Facebook Groups:
Homemade mask patterns all recommended by local area hosptials
- Button Counter
- JOANN Fabrics
- Sweet Red Poppy
- Sew Good Goods
- Video for making masks
- The Stitching Scientist
Good article on the effectiveness of homemade masks: https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/diy-homemade-mask-protect-virus-coronavirus/