A guide to purchasing (or making) a face mask for COVID-19

Though material masks provide only minimal protection towards the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, the Centers for Disease Management and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that everyone use them when leaving the house. The hope is that this low-risk, comparatively simple intervention can make a dent in the spread of COVID-19 by people with no signs or extraordinarily delicate ones.

But masks aren’t precisely straightforward to come back by: Medical-grade ones are already in brief supply for healthcare workers who want them, so healthy individuals shouldn’t even try to buy them. And within the wake of the CDC’s new recommendations, even non-medical fabric masks are sold out or backordered in many online stores. In case you’re trying to determine if and how you must cover your face on your next essential trip out of the house—for a walk on an uncrowded avenue or to purchase crucial groceries, for example—here’s a guide to all your options.

Things to search for and keep away from when buying a cloth mask

Lots of crafters and makers, as well as corporations that often sell different fabric products, are now offering non-medical masks for sale. However not all of these masks are created equal. For those who’re ordering protective equipment on-line, here’s what to search for:

Don’t buy medical-grade, filtering masks unless you’re immunocompromised or are caring for somebody sick with COVID-19. Hospitals are experiencing excessive shortages of those masks, and they are not shown to provide significant protection for healthy individuals.

Your mask should cover your nose and mouth and may have fastenings that keep it firmly in place while you speak, move, and breathe. If you have to contact your face to adjust your masks, you risk exposing your nose or mouth to germs.

Ideally, the masks ought to have some type of adjustable band to minimize gaps between your nose and your cheeks.

The most effective fabrics are water-resistant and tightly-woven—not stretchy or sheer. A tightly-woven cotton is the following best thing, and your masks ought to have at least two layers of it.

Your masks ought to be straightforward to sanitize by boiling or throwing in the washing machine. Which means it shouldn’t have cloth glues, delicate materials, or funky decorations (other than prints on the material). Embellishments like sequins (yes, there are people selling sequined masks proper now) provide surfaces that viral particles can linger on for days.

When you buy a fashionable cover to go over your mask—some stores are selling glittery fabric covers and chainmail overlays, for instance—do not forget that this outer layer is being exposed to viral particles. You need to remove it and sanitize it just such as you would with the mask itself.

What a few balaclava or scarf?

Rachel Noble, a public health microbiologist at UNC at Chapel Hill, tells PopSci that balaclavas and different warm-climate gear designed to cover your nose and mouth are unlikely to be suitable for stopping the spread of COVID-19. Because they’re designed to be as straightforward to breath by as doable, they are usually made of loose fabrics.

“You need to choose a really, really tightly woven fabric,” Noble says. “We’re speaking about something that’s approximately the density of the weave of a bandana, or a really high-quality bedsheet.”

Jersey fabrics, towels, and any textiles that stretch once you pull them are probably too loose, she says, as are most sweaters and other knit yarns. So for those who really can’t sew or put collectively a mask with hair ties as described below, covering your nose and mouth with a bandana tied around your face is probably slightly more effective and easier to sanitize than a balaclava or wound-up scarf. But all of these workarounds are mostly only useful in that they remind you to not contact your face and shield bystanders from the worst of your coughing and sneezing. For those who’re coughing and sneezing, you need to really be staying inside.

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