Due to a supply shortage, many people have taken to making their own facemasks during the coronavirus pandemic. Medical professionals at Wake Forest Baptist Health have been testing the quality of these homemade designs, and have some tips on what works best.
A team looked at over 400 masks and tested 13 designs for their ability to filter microscopic particles.
Dr. Scott Segal, Chair of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist, initiated the idea. He says what they found was that some of the models worked better than a regular surgical mask, with 75-79 percent filtration, while others hardly worked at all.
“What you want to use is a high thread count, heavyweight cotton — this is sometimes called quilter's cotton — and not the lower-grade, more open-weave, printed cotton fabric," he says. "And [a] double layer is really important.”
Another model that worked well had an outer cotton outer layer with a flannel inner layer. Segal says a good indicator of fabric quality is to hold it up to a bright light source. The more light the material blocks, the better.
He also emphasizes that no mask can replace the need for social distancing and practicing good hygiene.
Currently, Wake Forest Baptist is not using any homemade masks in routine clinical settings. But they do want a supply of high-quality masks should protective gear run low, and already have a group of volunteers making them.