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Question: Coronavirus & home sewn masks?

Discussion in 'Epidemics (including Covid-19)' started by Keela Too, Mar 11, 2020.

  1. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    How much use, in preventing viral particles being inhaled, would simple masks, sewn up at home, be?

    I’m thinking an inner sewn from an old towel (more absorbent than a new one) with a cotton outer (would be finer gauge than the towel) and tapes to secure it? (Perhaps a paper clip sewn carefully into the seam around the nose area?) They would be washable and easily produced, so could be changed regularly if required.

    [Edit 30th March: Towel as liner is apparently not such a good idea. Most people now sewing 2 layers of cotton or polycotton. ;) )

    Or might these only be useful for catching sneezes on the infected person?

    Might they help prevent some-one not infected from inhaling moisture particles in a crowded environment?

    Would they be worth the effort of making? (Or more to the point - might people actually wear them?)

    [I edited the title - I originally had the prefix “Question for Medics”, but I think others in this community may also have useful thoughts, so I deleted the “for Medics” part of the title. ;) ]

    Edit 26th March: Photos on how I am now making masks here:
    https://www.s4me.info/threads/question-coronavirus-home-sewn-masks.13996/page-5#post-247571



    Edit 4th April to add video from down thread on making a mask from an old teeshirt. Thanks @ahimsa for finding is

     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
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  2. InitialConditions

    InitialConditions Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    The consensus seems to be that this is likely the only benefit. For non-infected persons, it seems the small benefit of the mask is largely due to reduction in hand-to-mouth/face contact.
     
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  3. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    If you are talking about making them from fabric, I don't see the point. Sure it might catch a few droplets, but then those droplets will sit in the fabric waiting for you to breathe them in, or seep through as the mask moistens from your breath, and end up all over your face.

    And virus and bacterial particles would go straight through and around the unsealed edges, as they do with the cheap masks you see people wearing which are designed to reduce the amount of particulates you breathe from polluted air in cities.

    Edit: Looks like I was wrong! I now understand better that the main purpose of wearing masks is to catch droplets prevent the wearer spreading the virus to others.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020
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  4. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Perhaps, but maybe also you might have breathed those virus particles in directly if you were wearing no mask? A mask might be a delaying factor?

    So, it might be helpful if some-one sneezed in your area? You would then walk away, remove the potentially contaminated mask, wash your hands, and replace with a fresh one?

    Just thinking out loud on this really. I can see that putting a mask on at the beginning of the day and never changing it wouldn’t help much. Only that wearing masks might slow the progress of a viral particle on its route to your vulnerable lungs?
     
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  5. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    Given that this particular coronavirus seems not to cause sneezing and other cold type symptoms, but a dry cough, I'm not sure how relevant sneezing is, but I take the point about asking whether wrapping cloth around the face would reduce infection. It seems very unlikely to me from all I have been reading. I think the main thing would be it might stop the wearer touching their face, and transferring viruses from surfaces like door handles to the mouth, and nose.
     
  6. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Well coughing then! Point is the same.

    Agree a cloth mask is not going to guarantee any certain safety, only that wearing it might be slightly better than wearing nothing in altering your odds.

    It would be interesting to have real statistics on this point.

    Guess the consensus is that there’s no point in getting out the sewing machine then!! LOL
     
  7. Invisible Woman

    Invisible Woman Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    One of the issues I can think of with cloth masks is the size of the gaps or holes between the weave, if you know what I mean.

    Professional (commercial?) masks have a grading which block particles of a certain size - a lot smaller than the holes in normal woven material. Even if you were to double layer the material you can't guarantee the weave of the inner layer would block the holes in the weave of the outer layer.

    So if particles land in the mask there's a fair chance you would simply inhale them through the holes in the weave anyway?

    It might also make you a little more likely to take slightly more risks than without a mask and less focused on social distancing.
     
  8. Mij

    Mij Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I just realized last night that I have a supply of (10) N95 respirator masks! I used to wear them when I coloured my hair, but stopped colouring for almost 2 years and forgot I had them. I don't plan on wearing them though, I'm saving them in case of fire/smoke.
     
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  9. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    The point of a surgical mask isn't to stop you catching anything, it's to catch any droplets when YOU cough, so others risk is reduced, and thus slow down the spread.

    They do virtually nothing to protect the wearer - from what I've read, interviews I've seen etc.

    So I suspect that any barrier between you and the world, even if quite porous, would help, a bit - but not help you.
     
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  10. lunarainbows

    lunarainbows Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    If I could sew, I would make a mask.
    Regardless of anything else, it would remind you not to touch your face and nose and mouth. Surgical masks do also prevent from larger droplets.
    I have a box of surgical masks. I am well aware that they don’t protect in the same way as N95 or N99 masks do, however to me they are better than nothing.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51205344

    And if you are ill yourself, it would reduce the chances of you spreading it to others.
     
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  11. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It sounds a perfectly sensible idea to me.
     
  12. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    Can you explain why?
     
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  13. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It seems to be generally agreed that disposable masks are useful at least in some ways and situations - thousands of professionals are wearing them. If you cannot access disposable masks then homemade ones that maybe can be washed with soap or dunked in bleach would seem a reasonable second best. They might actually be better because disposable masks are pretty flimsy and leaky because they are made of cheap throwaway materials.
     
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  14. lunarainbows

    lunarainbows Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    @Keela Too there are some hand sewn face masks on Etsy too if you’re interested :) planning on getting one since I’m in and out of hospital

    there are even some with an inner lining to put a surgical mask in or another layer too!
     
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  15. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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  16. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    This Consumer Reports article on masks talks about risks of cloth masks:

     
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  17. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks ahimsa, that's helpful. I think it's worth copying it here:

    Given that you would be breathing through the mask, and breath carries quite a lot of moisture, surely a home made mask would be damp very quickly, and become useless. If you're wearing it while away from home, say out shopping, you have no way of disposing of it safely once it's damp. I don't know how long medical people wear masks before changing them.
     
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  18. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Would that not be the same for disposable masks?


    It could be dropped into a plastic bag? I wouldn’t imagine wearing a mask in open spaces, only in congested areas. So the time worn would likely be short. Then a fresh one for the next congested space?

    Maybe?

    I don’t know. I suspect if you must pass through a busy space, that a fresh cloth mask might offer some additional protection above the usual advice.

    And honestly if neither infected oneself, nor in extended close proximity to some-one infected, then the mask is unlikely to become heavily contaminated itself. (Although it might be wise to treat it as if it were.)

    Maybe wearing a scarf - bank robber style, would suffice!!
     
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  19. Milo

    Milo Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Wearing a mask provides a false sense of security. People touch their face hundreds of times a day without even thinking about it. Touching your mask would provide the same opportunity for the virus to infiltrate and find its way to your mucous membranes. Moreover the humidity that your breath causes makes the mask humid and would make it easier for virus to makes its way.

    As for hospital staff wearing a mask all the time, yes. But they usually change mask many times a day, and for the front line staff in high risk situations, there are extra measures of protection that is being observed, such as gowning, gloving, wearing a respirator or at the very least goggle and visors, hand washing and more hand washing. Focusing on not contaminating yourself as a health care worker requires constant attention for every move you make, and it also means that once your gloves have body fluids on them, you must not touch curtains, door knobs, light switches etc amd

    The best protection against this nasty Virus is to avoid contact with others, stay home, wash your hands, and if one must go out, don’t touch anything, pick the most quiet time to go out, sanitize your hands after contact to surfaces, don’t touch your face, avoid sick people. Try not to go out unless you go for fresh air.

    Lastly, sorry for the long post, would you feel safe in picking up dog poop with wool gloves? Would you feel safe if you were pregnant and in the same room as someone with measles? Do you trust that everybody around you, wherever you go, are all using the best practices for infection control, would you trust they all washed their hands,and that everybody around you is COVID negative? (Of course, people can carry the virus and not show signs of illness)

    If you say no, then it’s best to stay home.

    Edit to add: not convinced yet? Try paint spray on your mask. Give it a good spray and wait 10 minutes. See whether the paint has gone through to the other side. Then moisten your mask with a water spray and do the paint spray again.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
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  20. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    One more quick and dirty thought on home-sewn masks.

    Generally I’m seeing the phrasing - there is “little” benefit to the general population wearing a mask (not that there is no benefit, and not that they are counter productive).

    One commentator followed this up with the statement that masks should not be used by the general population, so that there will be enough masks available to supply those with most need. Ie Those who are caring for infected people, or those who need to wear them as they are already infected.

    So maybe the main message is actually one of deterring panic buying of masks?

    Home sewn masks would not deprive the more needy of masks.

    Mind you I think there is also the point that, if one ends up feeling “safer” wearing a mask of some sort, then one might be tempted to go places that would be otherwise avoided.

    I am considering making myself a couple of masks (cos I have a sewing machine and materials to hand) and just having them there.... just because... why not. :p
     
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