Question: Can people make their own masks to protect from coronavirus?

joyofsoy is asking a question about general
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by joyofsoy | January 27, 2020 20:09 | #22415

This question was submitted via email by a community partner:

People in Hong Kong can't get respirators or masks for the coronavirus and we cannot ship to our family and friends there either. Is it possible to make your own masks out of other materials? Thank you for your help!

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This is a really interesting question, and it led me to look more into the use of face masks in disease prevention. The CDC has prepared this page with information on the transmission for this novel coronavirus, but there's still a lot left to figure out.

It's worth noting that the coronavirus is really really small-- current estimates give it a diameter of just 1.2 microns. For context, average water filters are typically in a range of 5-50 microns and the large N95 respirators (like a firefighter might wear) can only filter out particles larger than 3 microns. So creating a filter small enough to prevent passage of the virus itself would be quite tough.

Where face masks seem to make an impact is in reducing the number of times a person touches their mouth or nose which can help prevent any viruses on the hands from entering the body. This effect could theoretically be replicated by anything worn over the mouth, such as a scarf or ski mask.

There are some DIY emergency air filters out there, such as this one made with t-shirts. It is designed to filter out air pollution. In it's current design, this one wouldn't be able to keep the very small virus from entering the filtered air, but

On the net, I've seen studies about using different material to filter air. Based on my impression, cotton is not an effective media to filter very small particulates like coronavirus. Sorry I can't dig up my source of information.

There are masks that are entirely made of clothes fabric, and manufacturers can only claim for dust removal and not protection from virus.

On the other hand, if one cannot get hold of surgery masks, a fabric mask is better than nothing.

Heat can kill coronavirus. Boiling a fabric mask is water for short while should not damage the mask.

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I have a few scientific paper to share with you.

This paper says that salt can be used to inactivate virus on surgical mask.

This paper says that surgical masks are as effective as the more expansive options like N95 masks in terms of preventing influenza.

Ithink a big problem with surgical masks is that there is usually a big hole on either side of mouth. To minimize these holes, one can pinch up the rim of the mask where the holes are . Then one can use a stapler to staple the pinched rim together.

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seeing someone in a mask makes me wash my hands, so there's also communications value, ha

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