To prevent and control infectious respiratory diseases such as the COVID-19 or influenza, the first line of defense should be to prevent exposures by using control measures, such as isolation, quarantine, or restricting or closing group gatherings, and/or using local exhaust ventilation. When such measures are not feasible or fully effective, measures such as respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette and hand washing can be useful. Personal respiratory protection provides the last line of defense.
What about the prevalence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) these days? Having a face mask is a must when we want to keep ourselves and people around you safe from the COVID-19 virus. In my previous posts about patterns for face masks, many questions have been asked about what materials can be used as face mask filter. After reading quite some research and reviews, I have come up with a list of materials that can be effective against the coronavirus.
First, we need to understand about filters in masks. The purpose of a mask is to prevent particles emitted from people infected with COVID-19 from getting to the mouth and nose of the wearer, and filter plays an important role in capturing such particles and stopping them from getting to the respiratory system of the wearer. Filters used in face masks must allow the user to breathe and thus cannot clog when particles adhere to their fibers.
So, what are mask filters are made of? Mask filters are typically composed of mats of nonwoven fibrous materials, such as wool felt, fiberglass paper, or polypropylene. These materials, initially using natural fibers, came into greater prominence with the introduction of synthetic thermoplastics, particularly polypropylene, about 40 years ago. Spun-bonded polypropylene is a fabric or structure in the category of nonwoven textile materials. However, you can always look for different materials, as long as they are safe for your respiratory system.
Of course, you have to keep in mind that these alternatives can’t be as good as N95 masks – they can only help you partially, and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing, washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Below is a short list of materials that can be used as filters for DIY face masks:
1. Polypropylene fabric. This is the most used material in all medical face masks – and of course the ideal material for you to make your own. However, I have not been able to buy in small quantity.
2. HEPA fabric. This must be the most used filter in DIY face mask projects. Many recommend using this material as it is easy to find and safe to use.
3. Wool felt. This easy to find material can provide decent protection against droplets let out when people cough or sneeze.
4. Fiberglass paper. It is manufactured from 100% borosilicate glass and is useful for filtering. It is durable and can be reused after sanitized properly.
5. Paper tissue. This is the last resort when you can’t get your hands on the above-mentioned materials. Choose the natural, non-bleached type with no fragrance so you won’t need to worry about chemicals.
6. Coffee filters. Easy, cheap, at least 100 in a pack and disposable.
7. Flannel. Cut it into pieces and put it into the pocket. Can be reused after sanitizing.
What about dryer sheets? In my previous post of the face mask pattern, a nurse commented:
“PLEASE DO NOT USE DRYER SHEETS AS A FILTER!!! Even if they are dry, they may contain up to 9 toxic chemicals such as ammonia that can actually be more dangerous than the virus. As a nurse I am very grateful for all the help, but please do not use any material that could contain toxic materials. If in doubt, look up the ingredients listed by the manufacturer.”
So, before you try to use any new materials for a filter, please look to see if they contain any toxic chemicals.
This post is just my personal recommendation, if you have any better ideas for face mask filter, please leave a comment! Many sewers will thank you for that!