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DIY face masks: How effective are they compared to surgical masks?

Posted at 6:51 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 20:56:04-04

SALT LAKE CITY — There are a lot of do it yourself videos online for making face masks, but the question is: will a homemade mask protect you as much as a surgical mask could?

A video created by JOANN Fabrics and Crafts has a downloadable pattern with it.

Supplies include:
• At least 12 x 9 100% cotton fabric
• 1/4 inch of elastic or 4 strips of fabric
• Hand sewing kit / sewing machine
• Lightweight Fusible Interfacing (filter)

Other videos online show people using hairbands for elastic bands and different materials for the filters, if a filter is wanted.

Dr. Jay Jacobsen with the University of Utah Health said some people can use everyday items at home, like a bandanna or even a cloth napkin to cover their mouth.

“Is it perfect? Does it block even the smallest particles? No,” said Dr. Jacobsen. “I think in such a serious epidemic, thinking about using things that may not be perfect but have something to offer is probably a very reasonable idea.”

A research study conducted by Cambridge, following the H1N1 outbreak from 2009 to 2010, compared the effectiveness of a surgical mask, versus a homemade mask.

Researchers took 21 healthy volunteers between the age of 20 and 44 year old.

The volunteers made their own, homemade face masks using 100% cotton t-shirt fabric and were provided a surgical face mask.

Volunteers were sampled three times, once while wearing their homemade mask, once with the surgical mask on and once with no mask at all.

One of the tests conducted had the volunteers cough to see what particles made it through the masks.

Another test had aerosol droplets of two sizes sprayed — one larger than influenza and one smaller than influenza — to what size of particles could get through the masks.

The results showed both the homemade mask and surgical mask prevented droplet’s from getting out while coughing.

But for particles coming in?

The surgical masks were at least 50% better than the homemade masks.

In an interview with Fox News, Dr. Anthony Fauci said face masks are an addendum and an addition to physical separation, not a substitute for it.

“Most importantly, to note that it must not take masks away from health care providers who absolutely need them,” said Dr. Fauci.