To prevent and control infectious respiratory diseases such as the COVID-19 or influenza, the first line of defense should be to prevent exposures by using control measures, such as isolation, quarantine, or restricting or closing group gatherings, and/or using local exhaust ventilation. When such measures are not feasible or fully effective, measures such as respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette and hand washing can be useful. Personal respiratory protection provides the last line of defense.
What about the prevalence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) these days? Having a face mask is a must when we want to keep ourselves and people around you safe from the COVID-19 virus. In my previous posts about patterns for face masks, many questions have been asked about what materials can be used as face mask filter. After reading quite some research and reviews, I have come up with a list of materials that can be effective against the coronavirus.
First, we need to understand about filters in masks. The purpose of a mask is to prevent particles emitted from people infected with COVID-19 from getting to the mouth and nose of the wearer, and filter plays an important role in capturing such particles and stopping them from getting to the respiratory system of the wearer. Filters used in face masks must allow the user to breathe and thus cannot clog when particles adhere to their fibers.
So, what are mask filters are made of? Mask filters are typically composed of mats of nonwoven fibrous materials, such as wool felt, fiberglass paper, or polypropylene. These materials, initially using natural fibers, came into greater prominence with the introduction of synthetic thermoplastics, particularly polypropylene, about 40 years ago. Spun-bonded polypropylene is a fabric or structure in the category of nonwoven textile materials. However, you can always look for different materials, as long as they are safe for your respiratory system.
Of course, you have to keep in mind that these alternatives can’t be as good as N95 masks – they can only help you partially, and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing, washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Below is a short list of materials that can be used as filters for DIY face masks:
1. Polypropylene non-woven fabric (PP non-woven fabric). This is the most used material in all medical face masks – and of course the ideal material for you to make your own. PP fabric comes in various manufacturing methods, and each has their own advantages:
Spunbond non-woven fabric: manufactured by bonding together extruded spun filaments of polyester to create a consistent web of material. It’s the cheapest filter material.
Spunbond-spunbond (SS) non-woven fabric: made of 2 layers of spunbond PP. It is softer and more durable than single spunbond non-woven fabric.
Spunbond-meltblown-spunbond (SMS) non-woven fabric: made of 1 layer of spunbond PP, 1 layer of meltblown PP and then 1 layer of spunbond PP. This material combines the strength and durability of spunbond with the barrier properties of meltblown microfibers. The resulting product offers cloth-like aesthetics, excellent water resistance, filtration and breathability as well as abrasion resistance.
Because many types of PP fabric are made from recycled materials (for example, from your old plastic bottles), they may contain harmful chemicals. Look for virgin PP fabric which are never used or recycled, and are used to make medical equipment.
If you are looking for PP non-woven fabric (spunbond, SS, SMS) and other materials to make face mask like elastic and nose wire, visit our little store here: https://fayrie.com/
We have plastic nose wire, elastic, virgin PP non-woven fabric for filters, anti-microbial fabric masks, hand made fabric masks to meet your needs. All items are ready in stock and will be shipped from Toronto, Canada. Same day shipping for orders before 3:00 PM. Free standard shipping for orders from US$75.00.
2. PUL fabric. This material is called the ‘breathable waterproof fabic’, which, at the molecular level, lets the air through and not allows water through. Some PUL materials are food-safe, and can be used for filter. Check the product info before choosing it as your filter.
3. HEPA fabric. This must be the most used filter in DIY face mask projects. Many recommend using this material as it is easy to find. However, some say that they cannot breathe through this fabric.
4. Wool felt/Craft felt/Wool blend felt. This easy to find material can provide decent protection against droplets let out when people cough or sneeze.
5. Fiberglass paper. It is manufactured from 100% borosilicate glass and is useful for filtering. It is durable and can be reused after sanitized properly. However, many worry that they may breathe in the tiny glass pieces from the material.
6. Paper tissue. This is the last resort when you can’t get your hands on the above-mentioned materials. Choose the natural, non-bleached type with no fragrance so you won’t need to worry about chemicals.
More materials that readers have mentioned and I think they are safe and provide decent protection:
7. Coffee filters. Easy, cheap, at least 100 in a pack and disposable.
8. Flannel. Cut it into pieces and put it into the pocket. Can be reused after sanitizing.
What about dryer sheets? Or dried sanitizing wipes? No, they are TOTALLY NOT recommended.
In my previous post of the face mask pattern, a nurse commented:
“PLEASE DO NOT USE DRYER SHEETS AS A FILTER!!! Even if they are dry, they may contain up to 9 toxic chemicals such as ammonia that can actually be more dangerous than the virus. As a nurse I am very grateful for all the help, but please do not use any material that could contain toxic materials. If in doubt, look up the ingredients listed by the manufacturer.”
So, before you try to use any new materials for a filter, please look to see if they contain any toxic chemicals.
This post is just my personal recommendation, if you have any better ideas for face mask filter, please leave a comment! Many sewers will thank you for that!