Scientists now say they know the best material for DIY face masks.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a heated debate over the efficacy of DIY masks made of materials commonly found at home. Now, a new study published in the journal Physics of Fluids on Tuesday claims to have found the optimal homemade mask design.
Researchers compared four makeshift face-mask styles, which they considered accessible options for most: a bandanna tied over the nose and mouth; a loosely folded handkerchief; a cone-style commercial mask; and a fitted, sewn mask made of two layers of quilting fabric.
Much to the delight of many an American grandmother, the quilt fabric performed best as a protective shield against respiratory droplets.
“While there are a few prior studies on the effectiveness of medical-grade equipment, we don’t have a lot of information about the cloth-based coverings that are most accessible to us at present,” said study author Siddhartha Verma, assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University in a statement.
With mask-wearing mannequins as human stand-ins, researchers employed a smoke generator with a manual pump to mimic coughs and sneezes. A laser and camera were set up to detect and capture the path of the “respiratory droplets.”
Without a mask, droplets from the simulated cough flew more than 8 feet and up to 12. They traveled 3 feet when the bandanna was worn; 15 inches with the folded handkerchief; and 8 inches with the surgical-grade masks.
The stitched, two-ply quilt mask, however, halted droplets after just 2 and ½ inches.
Why quilted? The study suggests that the masks made with quilting fabric fit faces better than loosely tied material. Plus, sturdy two-ply material gives a mask an added layer of protection, other studies have shown.
They also pointed out that a higher thread count was not commensurate with success: The bandanna had the highest thread count of other cloths used, yet was least effective.
In spite of the mounting evidence that face masks are indeed critical to coronavirus prevention, lawmakers continue to squabble over local and federal proposals to require the use of masks in public. At the same time, states which were eager to reopen just a few weeks ago are walking back on those plans amid unanticipated — yet not unforeseen — spikes in new cases.
Source: New York Post