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The best DIY face mask material and fit? Quilting cotton beats bandana, new study suggests

June 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The most effective non-medical masks for Covid-19 are homemade stitched masks. Researchers experimented with different choices in material and design to determine how well face masks block droplets as they exit the mouth.

(CNN)Wearing face masks and coverings is recommended, or in some places mandatory, in public spaces to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University have experimented with different materials and styles of non-medical masks and found that a well-fitted stitched mask made from two layers of quilting fabric was the most effective in stopping the spread of droplets from emulated coughs and sneezes.

They also compared a loosely folded homemade face mask, such as one you could make with a handkerchief or T-shirt, a bandana-style face covering and a cone-style non-sterile commercial mask that is usually available at pharmacies.

The researchers said they chose to test these styles of face covering because they are readily available to the general public and do not draw away from the supply of medical-grade masks and respirators for health care workers.

"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 Siddhartha Verma, an assistant professor at the department of ocean and mechanical engineering at Florida Atlantic University and author of the study.

"Our hope is that the visualizations presented in the paper help convey the rationale behind the recommendations for social distancing and using face masks. "

The World Health Organization says governments should encourage people to wear non-medical, fabric masks, especially in settings where physical distancing of at least 1 meter is not possible -- such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cloth face coverings to protect others in places where social distancing can't be maintained.

They found that droplets from a simulated uncovered cough were able to travel more than 8 feet; with a bandana they traveled 3 feet, with a folded cotton handkerchief, they traveled 1 foot, 3 inches; and with the cone-style mask, droplets traveled about 8 inches.

They said their experiment could help health care professionals, medical researchers and manufacturers assess the effectiveness of face masks.

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