Researchers find ways to make homemade face masks more effective

Michigan residents required to wear masks in enclosed public places

Researchers find ways to make homemade face masks more effective
Researchers find ways to make homemade face masks more effective

DETROIT – Michigan residents are now required to wear masks in public enclosed places, such as grocery stores, under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s revised stay-at-home order.

The order specifically requires everyone who can medically tolerate it to wear a covering over their nose and mouth in any enclosed public space.

READ: Michigan residents now required to wear masks in public places under revised stay-at-home order

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said babies and children under the age of two years old should not wear a mask. That’s because of the risk of choking, strangulation or suffocation.

Local 4′s Dr. Frank McGeorge has new research on how to make a homemade mask more effective. There are several options to choose from to construct a homemade mask.

WATCH: How to make your own face mask

Researchers at the University of Chicago just published a study putting various fabrics to the test. They looked at how effectively each fabric filtered out aerosol particles similar in size to respiratory droplets. The test found a combination of fabrics was best.

One layer of a tightly woven cotton sheet combined with two layers of chiffon filtered out the most aerosol particles -- between 80 to 99 percent, depending on the particle size.

Substituting the chiffon with two layers of natural silk or flannel -- or using a cotton quilt with cotton-polyester batting produced similar results.

MORE: Will regular mask use in public continue beyond the COVID-19 outbreak?

Researchers said tightly woven fabrics, like cotton, act as a mechanical barrier to particles -- and fabrics that hold a static charge, like chiffon, help create an electrostatic barrier.

Researchers also found just a 1 percent gap in the mask reduced the filtering ability of all masks by half or more -- so getting a tight fit makes a difference.

Another study from Northeastern found putting an outer layer cut from a pair of pantyhose and wearing that over your mask improved the performance of all the masks they tested. It helped create a tighter seal between the mask and the person’s face.

Some people have also suggested adding a coffee filter, part of a HEPA vacuum bag or an air conditioning filter to a cotton mask. If you do that you want to make sure the filter does not contain fiberglass.

Whatever method you choose, you need to be able to breathe well and the mask should be comfortable enough that you can actually wear it.

While certain fabrics are better -- any sort of face covering is helpful. So, if all you have at home is an old T-shirt or a bandana, that is better than nothing. Just make sure it fits close to your face.

READ: How to wear cloth face coverings to protect from virus


About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.