Make a face mask with filter yourself: Which household items are best for a breathing mask?
There is currently a lot of information on the subject of mouthguards. Since the coronavirus spread in Europe, it has been talked about again and again. The confusion is great, because under a breathing mask both the special FFP masks and the surgical face mask are referred to. Even homemade alternatives are available in numerous online shops. Whether and how well these variants actually protect is controversial. We try to clarify the question and explain how you can make a face mask with filter from household items yourself. Scientists from the University of Cambridge carried out a study after the swine flu and tested whether self-made respiratory masks can really effectively protect against infection.
Face mask with filter: What types of respiratory masks are there?
Before we explain to you how you can make a face mask with filter from household items yourself, we will take a close look at the different mask types. This is very important because each type of mask is used for a different purpose. There are three types of masks.
1. The first are the non-woven breathing masks that are worn by doctors in hospitals during an operation. The mouth and nose protective masks consist of three layers: the inner one feels pleasant, the middle one filters the fine particles from the air, including viruses and bacteria, the outer one has a liquid-repellent effect. They do not protect the medical professionals, but the patient from infection with viruses and bacteria. With regard to the coronavirus, these unique face masks without filters are worn by sick people. If the infected person coughs or sneezes, the mask catches the droplets and prevents other people from becoming infected. These masks should be changed regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If the one-time surgical breathing mask is moistened by our breath or cough, it can no longer effectively protect the others. So, the protective masks do not protect the healthy people. Then why was the population in China obliged to wear such protective masks? In theory, if everyone really wears protective masks, the spread of Covid-19 can be slowed down. Since there are supposedly many infected people without symptoms who could infect others, this protective measure could really be useful. In Europe and Germany, however, the authorities advise against it. Because it really doesn’t help if half or even 80% of the population wears such mouthguards. In the meantime, studies are available that people who wear a breathing mask could create a false sense of security. Since you have to get used to wearing a protective mask for the first time, you touch your face more often at the beginning. This can lead to a smear infection.
2. The FFP face mask with filter are made of a special material and equipped with a valve. They prevent viruses like Covid-19 from getting through. That is why they are mainly worn by medical staff in hospitals. Therefore, they are currently considered to be an effective protective measure in the event of close contact with infected people. These masks are also worn for a certain period of time, which is specified by the manufacturer or by the local authorities. After that, they must be replaced with new ones. The majority of FFP masks are intended for multiple use. That means they can be disinfected or sterilized.
3. There is a third variant: a self-sewn face mask with a filter made from household items. It is supposed to fulfill the same function as the surgical mask, namely to prevent people who are already infected from infecting others. Even so, health experts warn that in most cases these masks cannot provide effective protection. According to EU standards, the face mask should consist of three layers, the middle one is called the “filter layer”. However, the majority of breathing masks are sewn from a single layer of fabric without a filter.
Others, such as the city administration in Essen, rely on self-made masks. DIY instructions for a face and nose mask have been put together on the community’s website. If mouthguards are missing or are being auctioned at high prices on the Internet, then there are DIY variants. However, they are not certified according to EU standards and are therefore more likely to be used as aids than as an effective mouthguard. Homemade breathing masks can come in handy in the following cases:
- When you go shopping and want to protect others from infection.
- If everyone around you wears a mask, you could reduce the spread of potential infection in your own home.
- When wearing a breathing mask makes you feel good. It may not always be effective against viruses, but it can help with anxiety.
A self-made face mask with a filter cannot replace other protective measures. You should not visit your grandparents even with a breathing mask, as there is a risk of infection. You should also not rely on the masks to effectively protect you from the coronavirus and neglect important hygiene measures such as hand washing. Even if you are wearing a surgical mask, try not to touch your face. In this way, smear infections can be avoided.
Caution! Children and babies are not allowed to wear a self-made face mask !! As a rule, children are only allowed to wear a certified face mask after consulting their pediatrician, but babies are at risk of suffocation.
Make face mask with filter yourself: Which household materials are suitable for this?
As already mentioned, a face mask with a filter consists of three layers. If you want to make a breathing mask yourself, the following household items are suitable for the first and third shift:
- Linen tea towels
- Cotton blend t-shirts
- T-shirts and blouses made of cotton (but no knitwear and sweaters!)
- Antibacterial pillows
- Scarves and scarves
- Cotton pillows
- Silk bed linen
According to the study, linen t-shirts and tea towels are best for making breathing masks. This is because these household items are air permeable. Compared to surgical masks, T-shirts let 3% more air through, linen 11% and single-layer pillows 28% more air. Two-layer antibacterial pillows let through 4% less air than surgical masks. The two materials are not moisture-repellent. This means that you have to make several masks and should change the mask every 2 hours.
Sewing a breathing mask: what role do the filters play?
A certified breathing mask lets neither viruses nor bacteria through. Homemade mouthguards are not certified. Why do we need filters when it has been scientifically proven that most household items can only filter small particles to a limited extent and are unsuitable as protection against coronavirus? Although the DIY breathing masks cannot filter the air, they can protect against smear infections. A mask made only of cloth quickly becomes moisturized by our breath and is no longer effective. However, filters from household items can help prevent smear infection.
These materials are suitable as filters:
- Vacuum cleaners or HEPA filters that can trap particles with a diameter of 0.10 μm or smaller.
- Sebo filter bags
- Paper towels
- Dry wet wipes
Our tip: Always test in advance whether you can really breathe easily through the air mask. If this is not the case, it is better to do without a face mask. To be on the safe side, you can also contact the local authorities, the manufacturer or supplier and your family doctor to find out whether the selected filter is harmful or not. No studies are currently available, so you should always seek advice in advance to be on the safe side. Allergy sufferers or people with asthma should refrain from using the self-made mouthguard to be on the safe side.
Sewing a breathing mask: instructions
If you would like to sew a breathing mask yourself, you will find two patterns and examples here. You will need fabric for the first and third layers and a filter of your choice. If you sew the breathing mask yourself, you should make sure that it fits the shape of your face. The two cutting guides we offer are pretty simple and well suited even for beginners.
We recommend that you seek additional advice from the local authorities or your family doctor. In many cities, the authorities also provide cutting patterns free of charge and explain which filters are suitable and which are not. Your family doctor can best assess whether the selected fabric and filters are really not harmful to your health and whether you can use the materials.
For whom is a self-made breathing mask not suitable??
- Babies and toddlers
- Allergy sufferers
- People with asthma
- People with lung or cardiovascular diseases
To the Cambridge University study