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How Can We Use DIY masks more effectively?

28 April, 2020 - 0 Comments

Recently, as the demand for masks increased due to COVID-19, the interest for DIY masks has also been growing. With the shortening supply of medical masks, DIY masks, or homemade masks are becoming a popular alternative that are being used by people. People make the mask with a variety of materials, and the most common of which is probably using cloth to make reusable masks.

The most troubling and the first thing to do when making DIY cloth masks is perhaps picking cloth. There are a number of various kinds of cloth, but you have to use a suitable cloth so that it can function as a mask. The type of cloth that can be used as a mask cloth is: cotton T-shirt, flannel pajamas, antimicrobial/general pillow case, origami vacuum bag, jeans, dish towel, and linen etc. Then which among these, the most effective to filter out particles? Researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that origami vacuum bags are the most effective, followed by dish towels and cotton T-shirts to capture particles. There is another way of checking it by yourself. Dr. Scott Segal says that to make sure if it’s a suitable cloth, you should hold it up to a bright light. If the light doesn’t pass through the fiber easily, then that fabric is dense enough to use as a mask. And there’s another thing you shouldn’t overlook when choosing the cloth for the mask. You need to check if the cloth is breathable enough that you can actually wear it. Even if it’s a great fabric in terms of blocking particles, it would be hard to wear it for an extended period of time if it’s hard to breathe. The vacuum bag and dish towel, which are mentioned earlier, received high scores for their particle blocking function, but received low scores for their breathability. Thus, considering both particle blocking function and breathability, researchers recommend pillowcases and cotton T-shirts to people who would like to make DIY masks.

The effectiveness of a DIY mask is certainly concerning. Since, no matter how good the blocking effect is, a piece of cloth will not be enough to block out all of COVID-19’s microparticles. But if an appropriate filter is added to the mask, it will make the mask efficient enough to work as an alternative protection.

Generally, disposable masks that are commercially available also come with filters inside. They come with a three-layer structure: the outer layer, the filter layer and the inner layer. However, it’s only the filter between the outer and inner layer that prevents bacteria from going through. In other words, it is the filter that is the most important aspect of the mask. This means that with a suitable filter, a DIY mask could perform similarly as the disposable medical masks.

However, these days, it is not easy to find the appropriate filter because it is difficult to find the filter itself and to identify if it’s a reliable filter. As a result, South Korea, the government tested the performance and safety of electrostatic PP Non-woven, and has recommended civilians to use it as an alternative filter. According to the Seoul Institute of Health and Environment, the average particle blocking effect of the electrostatic PP Non-woven is 80 to 95 percent based on the particle size of 0.6㎛. With the KF80 mask blocking at least 80% of the particles and the KF94 mask blocking 94% of particles. Also, the research team conducted an experiment to pass 0.4㎛ sized-paraffin oil through homemade masks with the electrostatic filter, which resulted in only 15 percent of particles detected inside the masks. This means that about 85 percent of the oil was blocked when 100 percent of outer cross section was coated. On the other hand, homemade masks without the electrostatic filter showed a significantly lower rate of droplet particle blocking to around to only 10 percent. Given the difference in the blocking rate caused by the use of static filters, it would be better to add filters to enhance the effectiveness of DIY masks. 

If it’s difficult to obtain electrostatic PP Non-woven, medical materials with high blocking rate of splashes can be obtained and used as a filter substitute. Check out Water Resistant Non-woven Fabric if you need more details.

Using electrostatic filters is not that challenging. Before you touch the filter, wash your hands clean, cut the filter into a similar size as the mask that you have, and insert it between the mask. However, due to the nature of the cloth, care must be taken as it may tear during installation. And we do not recommend you wash the filter because exposure to moisture can lead to loss of its function. If you need more details for the process of installation, please follow this link: Electrostatic PP Non-woven.

There are many ways to make DIY masks, and ithinksew has 4 DIY masks patterns: Disposable Mask, Jean Mask with Filter Pocket, Center Darted Mask with Filter Pocket (2 Layers/ 3 Layers), and Facial Mask with Filter Pocket. First of all, Disposable Mask is a pattern like its namesake almost looks like the deposable masks sold on the market, which can be made quickly and easily. This pattern is designed for use in an emergency and at the absence of a disposable mask.

Jean Mask with Filter Pocket pattern is designed to make DIY masks easily by hand sewing if you want to make a DIY masks but don’t have a sewing machine at home.

The Center Darted Mask with Filter Pocket is a mask that can be made with a single fabric piece and a dart in the center. This makes it an easy mask to make and easy to shape it or style it, making it a popular mask among children and teenagers. There are two types of this pattern, the 2 layers version and 3 layers version. The 2 layers mask is good to use when it’s hot or when you need to work indoors for a long time because of it is less stuffy and more breathable.

2 layers: 2 Layer Center Darted Mask with Filter Pocket

3 layers: 3 Layer Center Darted Mask with Filter Pocket

Facial Mask with Filter Pocket is the most popular pattern on YouTube and our website, which many of our costumers downloaded. We would like to share how to make this Facial Mask with Filter Pocket.

Place the two outer pieces with right sides together. Pin and stitch the center edge, backstitching at both ends.

2 Clip the center seams of the mask.

3 Open and press the center seams of the outer piece. Topstitch both center seams as close as end of the seams. Repeat step 1 to step 3 for the inner piece and pocket piece.

4  Fold over the side seam of pocket 3/4” to the wrong side and press. Fold it over 3/4” again. Pin and sew along the folded edge, 1/8” away from the seam.

5  Facing up the right side of the inner piece and pocket. Place the filter pocket to the inner piece matching center. Pin and baste inner piece and pocket together.

6 Place the inner piece and outer piece with the right sides facing each other, matching the center. Pin and stitch all around the mask pieces together, leaving one short side open.

7 Clip the corner seams. Clip the round seams.

Turn the mask right side out through the opening then press. Fold the opening seam towards wrong side of the fabric. Then press.

9 Fold the both sides of the mask 1/2” toward inner side to make the elastic casing. Stitch the elastic casing 1/8” away from the edge. Repeat the same process to the other side of elastic casing.

10 Stitch the wire casing, leaving one side open.

11 Insert the wire into the opening of the wire casing. Close the opening.

12 Thread the elastic through the hole of the ear loop adjuster using a needle threader.

13 Thread the elastic through the elastic casing using a needle threader.

14 Tie the elastic.

15 Push the knot of the elastic into the elastic tube.  Adjust the elastic using ear loop adjuster. Attach the elastic for the other side in the same manner.

16 Attach the elastic for the other side in the same manner

17 Insert the filter through the pocket opening. Or insert another layer of material through the pocket opening for extra protection.

If you need more details: Facial Mask with Filter Pocket

As sanitation has become more crucial, it is important to wash your masks clean after making it. Especially, if you used jeans or T-shirts as the material, extra care may be needed. Also, we recommend not reusing the mask without washing it.

If you want to use masks but it’s difficult for you to get them, it would be not a bad idea to try to make DIY masks that can be used with filters like these. All of us here, at ithinksew, hope that everyone is able to remain healthy during these troubling times. Stay safe and happy sewing!

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