What is the best material for do-it-yourself face masks?

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Since the Centers for Disease Control recommended that we cover our mouths and noses with a protective face mask, we have largely been making our own--some are the no-sew versions like those using a bandana or t-shirt, or those made with a sewing machine.

But a new study of these home made masks found that of all materials, cotton T-shirts and cotton pillowcases were the best to use for making these coverings, largely due to their ability to capture particles yet remain breathable, and that they perform comparably to surgical-grade masks.

But some of us want to go the extra mile. We are choosing to add an additional filter to provide more protection to simulate the N95 masks used in our hospitals.

DIY masks made with HEPA vacuum bag filters and coffee filters are already beginning to gain popularity on Pinterest. And chances are, you’ve probably seen them on Instagram, too.

But which are the best materials to use? We tapped two medical professionals and a COVID-19 survivor who makes mask patterns online to give you the lowdown on the best filter fabrics to use when crafting a mask of your own.

An assistant professor of environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology says the use of filters helps promote safe breathing and ensures that particles are removed properly. But a Stanford physician suggested the placemet of the filter is even more important. Filters must be sandwiched between two layers of fabric to prevent the inhalation of filter materials saying any filter material (HEPA, polypropylene) should be sandwiched in between two additional layers of fabric (cotton, silk or nylon) to prevent inhalation of filter materials, and protect the face from the abrasive material. That physician said HEPA vacuum filters are breathable, are easy to obtain and do not extrude large amounts of inhalable synthetic materials.

They also suggested the use of air conditioner filters. However, like vacuum bags and filters, it’s important to avoid products that have fiberglass materials.

Another doctor said that coffee filters, paper towels and tissues (even in layers) aren’t very effective at filtering out microscopic particles. And they can’t be washed.

Below are some videos that may help you.

Photo: Getty images

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