Scientists now say they know the best material for DIY face masks.
The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a heated debate over the efficacy of DIY masks made from materials commonly found in the home. Now, a new study published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids claims to have found the optimal homemade mask design.
The researchers compared four styles of makeshift face masks, which they considered options accessible to most: a headscarf tied over the nose and mouth; a slightly folded scarf; a conical style commercial mask; and a fitted and stitched mask made of two layers of quilted fabric.
To the delight of many American grandmothers, the quilt fabric worked best as a protective shield against respiratory drops.
“While there are some previous studies on the effectiveness of medical grade equipment, we don’t have a lot of information on fabric-based coatings that are most accessible to us right now,” said study author Siddhartha Verma, an assistant professor. at Florida Atlantic University in a statement.
Using masked mannequins as human substitutes, the researchers used a smoke generator with a hand pump to mimic coughs and sneezes. A laser and camera were installed to detect and capture the path of “respiratory droplets”.
Without a mask, the simulated cough drops flew over 8 feet and up to 12. They traveled 3 feet when the handkerchief was worn; 15 inches with the handkerchief folded; and 8 inches with surgical grade masks.
However, the two-layer sewn quilt mask stopped the drops after just 2 and ½ inches.
Why padded? The study suggests that masks made from padded fabric fit the faces better than loose material. Plus, the sturdy two-layer material gives the mask an extra layer of protection, other studies have shown.
They also noted that a higher thread count was not proportional to success: the scarf had the highest thread count of other fabrics used, but was less effective.