Sewing mouthguard mask: which fabric is best suited?

After weeks of insisting that only healthcare workers or people infected with COVID-19 have to wear face masks, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated their public face mask guidelines to recommend that everyone, whether sick or not, should wear a face mask made of fabric. This is especially true in public environments (e.g. grocery stores and pharmacies), where other measures such as keeping a distance of 2 meters are impossible. Homemade multi-way masks can now play an important role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but the type of substance used is, according to scientists, the key to its effectiveness.

Which material is best suited for a face mask

The change in recommendations resulted from new information on the symptoms of the coronavirus. A significant number of people with the virus are asymptomatic and have little to no symptoms, the CDC reports. There is also a long incubation period during which people infected with the virus have no symptoms. In both cases, these people are still contagious to others.

Bandana mask with coffee filter – Instructions from the CDC

Instructions on how to make a mouthguard out of bandana cloth and coffee filter (1)

On their website, the CDC published a few instructions for self-made masks with and without sewing. According to instructions, one should use tightly woven cotton fabric, e.g. B. quilting or cotton bedding. T-shirt fabric will also work well if necessary. A mask with a filter, on the other hand, can be quickly made out of a bandana cloth, a coffee filter and hair ties. So there are several variants for household items that everyone already has at home. But which material is the best for a DIY mouthguard?

According to scientists, these substances are ideally suited

Buy a mouth mask mask fabric

US scientists have set themselves the task of identifying household materials and substances that can be used to better filter microscopic particles. Recent tests have shown good results: air filters, vacuum cleaner bags, pillowcases with a thread density of 600 and flannel fabric with a thread density of 180.

In a recent Scott Segal, anesthetics chair at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina, conducted a series of tests to determine how effective they would be as face masks. To determine the protective properties of homemade fabric masks, a team of doctors and scientists rigorously tested 13 different designs of approximately 400 masks made by community volunteers. The aim was to find out which type of mask can best filter virus particles with a diameter of 0.3 to 1.0 micrometers compared to surgical masks and N95 respirators. The test team found that the effectiveness of the masks was very different. The best homemade masks achieved a filtration rate of 79% compared to surgical masks (62% to 65%) and N95 masks (97%).

Sew the mouthguard yourself, choose the right fabric

The most powerful designs were a mask made of two layers of high quality, heavier Quilting fabric, a two-layer mask made of thick Batiste fabric and a two-layer mask with an inner layer flannel and an outer layer cotton. Single-layer masks or two-layer designs made from light, low-quality cotton had the worst results.

DIY face mask made of a high quality, thick cotton fabric

So if you want to sew a mouthguard, you should use a high-quality, thick cotton fabric. And if you're not sure if the fabric you have at home is thick enough, Dr. Segal plans to do the following simple test. Hold the fabric against bright light. If light falls through the fibers very easily and you can almost see the fibers, it is not a good substance. If it is a denser fabric made of thicker material and does not let as much light through the fabric, this is the material you want to use.

The biggest challenge when choosing a homemade mask material is to find a fabric that is dense enough to trap virus particles, but also breathable enough to actually wear it.

And which filter is best suited?

pleated air filter as filter for face masks

Yang Wang, assistant professor of environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, worked with his PhD students to study different combinations of materials – including air filters and fabrics. Dr. Wang's group tested two types of air filters. An HVAC filter for allergy sufferers worked best, picking up 89 percent of the particles with one layer and 94 percent with two layers. The other air filter covered 75 percent with two layers, but needed six layers to reach 95 percent. To find an air filter that is similar to the ones tested, look for a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) of 12 or higher.

The problem with air filters is that they can potentially release small fibers that would be risky to inhale. So if you want to use a filter, you have to insert the filter between two layers of cotton fabric.

Make a mouthguard out of a woolen scarf yourself

Dr. Wang's group also found that when using certain substances, two layers offered far less protection than four layers. A pillowcase with a thread density of 600 recorded only 22 percent of the particles in two layers compared to four layers with a filtration rate of almost 60 percent. A thick woolen scarf filtered 21 percent of the particles in two layers and 48.8 percent in four layers. A scarf made from 100 percent cotton had the worst results: only 18.2 percent in two and 19.5 percent in four layers. The group also tested coffee filters that showed a filtration efficiency of 40 to 50 percent when stacked in three layers – but they were less breathable than other options. Scarves and cotton bandanas can therefore provide more effective protection if they are fitted with a filter such as Coffee filters were combined.

Fold the cotton bandana into a face mask

Wash the reusable masks after each wear

Wash cloth masks regularly at 60 degrees

To ensure that masks are as effective as possible, regular washing at a minimum of 60 ° is essential. Since the mask should be washed after each wear, it makes sense to make several masks at once. Experts advise avoiding bleach and harder chemicals, as these can damage the fabric threads. Wear the masks only briefly and never all day – e.g. if you absolutely have to leave the house to buy important things like food and medicine. Experts emphasize that masks can give a false sense of security. It is important to continue to follow all other guidelines for protection against Covid-19. No mask is as effective as social distance and good hygiene. These are still the best ways to protect yourself and others.

You can view the patterns and instructions without sewing CDC here.

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