How to make a face mask ? This is a common question all we have. In other hand benefits of face masks are very interesting topic to discuss. A face mask is a device that protective covering for the face. Face masks help to prevent yourself from breathing lousy air/dust, and face mask is protecting others from you if you are sick. Let’s explore the science behind face masks in a little more detail below.
Coronavirus first emerged in China and now has spread worldwide killing thousands of people while infecting millions of people. With this pandemic, masks became an essential for each and every person. People wear different types of masks, but do they actually protect them against COVID-19? Let’s find out the science behind face masks.
There are several types of masks. N95, surgical masks, sponge masks and cloth masks are the well-known types of masks. Their activities are different from each other. Their effectiveness also differs from one type to another. Science behind masks are quite impressing.
Different types of Face Masks
These masks have got its name because they are 95% efficient in filtering off hazardous airborne particle. These includes viruses and bacteria as well. They give protection from splashes, spray and splatter also, just as other masks do. So now let’s have a look at the structure of N95 mask.
N95 mask consists of four layers.
- Outer layer of spun bound polypropylene
- Second layer of cellulose/ polyester
- Third layer of melt brown polypropylene filter material
- Fourth layer of spun bound polypropylene
The outer active layer of N95 mask is coated with a hydrophilic plastic. The second inner layer is treated with copper and zinc ions. Both these layers inactivate influenza virus using different mechanisms of action. N95 mask can filter particles up to 0.3 microns (Micron is a measuring unit, which is used to measure the sizes of particles). A hair of a human is around 75 microns, a normal dust particle is around 5 microns, and hence it is pretty obvious that 0.3 micron is a very smaller size.
N95 mask is circular or oval shaped, and comes in different sizes. It is designed to have a close facial fit. You should be very careful in selecting the right size of N95 mask, otherwise its’ efficiency might get lower or in other words, you won’t get a proper protection. Some of the N95 masks have a special valve called an exhalation valve. This valve helps you to stay cool and comfortable by avoiding the heat buildup inside the mask. N95 masks can be reused. Considering all above, N95 mask is literally the best mask to use to get protection from Covid19. Usually these masks are worn n health care settings.
The world is running out of N95 masks. But after reading all above you may wonder what mask to wear if N95 masks aren’t available at the moment. Yes, there is another option, which is surgical mask. Surgical masks cannot filter particles up-to 0.3 microns just like N95 masks do, but still it may help you get a certain protection.
Surgical masks are made in different thicknesses and with different ability to protect you from contact with liquids. They consist of 3 layers
- An outer hydrophobic layer which repels water, blood and body fluids.
- A middle filter layer that is designed to filter bacteria & other particles.
- An inner hydrophilic layer which absorbs water, sweat and spit.
If worn properly, a surgical mask is meant to help block large particles droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that may contain germs. Surgical masks do not have close facial fit like N95 masks, because surgical masks come only in one size. Surgical masks are disposable
Sponge Masks and Cloth Masks
These masks are not efficient as N95 and surgical masks. Filtration efficiency for particles bigger than 30 microns is around 15-50%. These masks can be reused after washing. These masks do not have filters inside. Hence these masks do not offer a large degree of protection, but still they may help prevent the covid-19 from asymptomatic people. These are recommended to use in public setting while maintaining social distancing.
As you now know the differences and functions of masks, I hope you would get the maximum protection out of your mask. When removing the mask, you wore, make sure you don’t touch your nose, eyes or mouth. Wash hand immediately after removing.
How to Make Face Masks?
Cut two cotton cloth rectangles as preferable. 6 by 10 inches size is preferable. Mount the two rectangles; knit the mask as if it were just a single piece of cloth. Fold in 1⁄4 inch and trim over the long ends. Then fold the double sheet of fabric over the short sides about 1⁄2 inch and pin it down. Pull a 1/8 “long elastic 6-inch length through the wider fringe on either side of the mask. Those are going to be the ear loops. To thread it through use a broad needle or bobby pin. Strictly tie the ends. Push softly onto the elastic to tuck the knots within the hem. Pick the mask sides on the elastic, and change the mask to suit the face. Then sew the elastic tightly in order to prevent it sliding.
How to Wear a Face Mask?
Clean hands with alcohol-based hand washing, or soap and water before slipping on a mask. Cover the nose and mouth with mask and ensure that there are no holes between the face and the mask. Do not touch the mask before wearing it; clean your hands with alcohol-based rubbing or with soap and water. Replace the mask with a fresh one while hot, should not reuse single-use masks. To remove the mask, remove it from behind (do not touch the mask front); quickly dump it in a locked bin; disinfect hands with alcohol-based hand rubbing or soap and water.
Health Benefits of Wearing a Face Mask
Only people who are ill or care for someone who is ill (when the person who is sick cannot wear a mask) should wear the face masks. A mask helps catch some of the cough spores of a diseased person that could otherwise spread to others. If everyone wears a mask as they leave home, instead those who have the virus but have no symptoms can wear a physical barrier capable of catching infectious droplets that exit their mouth or nose. That helps protect everyone. Currently, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advises that health care workers use DIY masks (home made masks) when face masks of a specific degree are not available — their examples include bandanas and scarves. “DIY masks are not called Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), because they are unknown for their ability to shield.
Erandi Ranasinghe – Chemist