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Man wearing a face mask in an urban area

What are the best materials for homemade protective facemasks?

biologyRebecca Newberry, ConservatorApr 1, 2020

In the face of PPE (personal protective equipment) shortages, many people are volunteering to make DIY face masks for hospitals and healthcare workers.

If you’re sewing masks, how do you choose the most effective materials? This article summarizes a 2013 study out of Cambridge University on which common materials most effectively block viruses. Note that DIY single-layer cotton fabric masks are only about 50% effective at blocking the spread of viruses.

Here’s a recent article on sewing masks for healthcare workers (it contains some links to patterns and other resources). A quick web search can help you find who needs masks in your area, but if you’re in Minnesota, this article lists several organizations accepting mask donations.

Not a bad use for your old t-shirts!

*If you aren’t trained in the safe ways to use them, you may want to avoid wearing a mask yourself. Improper use and handling of a mask can be more dangerous than not wearing one at all!