Manila Bazaars Blog

Wearing a cloth facemask? How effective is it?

We hope that our readers are staying safe during the Coronavirus pandemic.  During these difficult times, you might be searching for information on how to best safeguard yourself and your family from this disease.  We are sharing this article in hopes of helping you make informed decisions during the outbreak.

Effectiveness of cloth facemasks

With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the wearing of facemasks becoming a requirement in more and more areas, there has become an overwhelming shortage for N95 masks (masks that filter out at least 95% of airborne particles). As a result, the demand has grown for DIY and cloth facemasks. So what does the data say, and how effective exactly are cloth facemasks?

How do cloth facemasks compare?

If you’d like to know how cloth facemasks compare to surgical masks, here’s an infographic that helps visualize it:

DIY Mask versus Sergical Mask

What this says is that cloth facemasks made from a cotton t-shirt captures 69% of harmful particles, versus 96% from that of a surgical mask. This data clearly shows that wearing a cloth facemask is better than wearing no mask at all.

A YouTuber also posted this video which highlights a lot of the research on the effectiveness of cloth facemasks:

What does CDC say about cloth facemasks?

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings like grocery stores and pharmacies where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. You can read more about CDC’s recommendations here: Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19.

Which materials work best for cloth facemasks?

Cloth Mask Infographic

For comparison, this chart shows the effectiveness of materials that can be found around the house, including pillowcases and cotton t-shirts.

Although these materials seem to be good candidates, one more factor to consider is how breathable the fabric is.  The easier it is to breathe using your cloth facemask and the more comfortable it is, the longer you can wear your mask. So for example, although the dish cloth and the vacuum bag captured the most particles, they were also the hardest to breathe through.  These same researchers found that the most breathable fabrics are pillowcase fabric and cotton t-shirt fabric.

Effectiveness of filters inside cloth facemasks?

Cloth facemasks can be designed with filter pockets inside of them.  This is an extra pocket space to insert another type of material for added protection.  The filter can also be easily replaced and is disposable.  How effective are these filter inserts, and which material works best?

In her article “DIY Face Mask Filter Materials: What to Use, What to Avoid“, blogger Jennifer Marx has done a very thorough job in covering these materials, which includes coffee filters, blue shop towels, paper towels, HEPA vacuum cleaner bag filters, and even sanitary napkins.

Another article “DIY Masks: Is Paper Towel Effective at Blocking Viruses?” shows how adding a paper towel as a filter will increase particle capture by 10%:

Paper Towel Facemask Filter

Another university study even found that a normal facemask that can screen out 48% of small dust particles can increase particle capture to 75%-90% just by adding tissue paper as a filter.

Our conclusion?  Stuffing facemasks with tissue to filter out additional dust particles is better than not using them at all.

What is the best material for cloth facemasks?

Based on our above research, our conclusion is that pillowcase fabric and cotton t-shirt fabric are the best choices to make cloth facemasks from, based on both their particle capture and breathability.  Adding tissue to the facemask’s filter insert also appears to be helpful.

Best Materials for Cloth Facemask

Looking for a manufacturer of customized cloth facemasks?

If you found this article helpful and are in need of your own customized cloth facemasks, visit Tancorp Manufacturing, Inc., a manufacturer located in Pampanga, Philippines who manufacturers customized cloth facemasks.