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Face Masks Made From Car Shop Towels May Be The Most Promising DIY Model

You may recall that in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials cautioned healthy Americans against wearing face masks. And considering how much damage to vulnerable citizens and health care workers can be done by rampant panic-buying of such supplies, it's not difficult to understand where this warning came from.

That said, The Washington Post reported that the White House and the Centers For Disease Control Are now likely to reverse this messaging and encourage the wearing of face masks whenever we have to appear in public.

But while the most effective masks available, the N95 masks, are still sorely needed by health care workers, studies from 2010 and 2013 suggested that even DIY face masks could reduce cases of respiratory infection.

But while even bandanas may provide at least some protection, a mask-testing firm in California and a scientist who designed a key component of N95 masks have a much more specific recommendation.

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Of course, even the best face masks in the world can only do so much if they aren't worn properly.

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As epidemiologist Raina MacIntyre told The Washington Post, an ideal face mask should reach above the bridge of the nose and below the chin while fitting snugly.

It's also better to use fabric ties over elastic bands and adding three-ply layers or an additional pouch for an additional filter are also good ideas, whenever possible.

Most importantly, if a mask is intended to be reused, it's imperative to wash it daily and ideally expose it to direct sunlight.

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But while many of the experts interviewed were reluctant to throw all their confidence behind one specifc design or material, there are some findings to keep in mind.

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Namely, that paper towels or wet wipes should not be used as the foundation for a face mask because they are much too porous and permeable, meaning infection-spreading respiratory droplets won't have much difficulty getting through.

Vacuum bags, however, have the opposite problem. They're highly effective filters, but are difficult to breathe through.

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And although they're better than nothing, cloth masks made from cotton and cotton blends left a lot to be desired too.

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As MacIntyre said, these masks retain a lot of moisture, which makes them breeding grounds for bacteria.

The breathability of cotton was also a matter of concern for the founders of the Los Angeles-based Suay Sew Shop, a mask-testing firm devoted to finding a material that struck the right balance between ease of use and filtration power.

As one of these owners, Chloe Schempf, told Business Insider when she saw the CDC suggesting bandanas could work as a last resort, "The recommendation of a bandana made me ill. I couldn't understand how we can go from a 2020 N95 mask to a 1918-era cotton mask with a variable filtration of 20%-60%."

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Instead, Suay Sew Shop's research led them to discover what could be the ideal DIY face mask material.

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These turned out to be stretchy car shop towels like the ones you see here and can find at most hardware stores and auto centers, which filtered out 93% of particles as small as 0.3 micrometers compared to the (at best) 60% from cotton masks.

As Business Insider reported it's worth noting that while the Scott Pro Shop towels shown here are one of the most recognizable brands of these towels, the ones made by ToolBox and ZEP's industrial blue actually worked better in their tests.

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Peter Tsa — a scientist who invented a charging technology for N95 masks — also reccomended car shop towels as a face mask material.

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As he told The Washington Post, they're more effective at filtering droplets than cloth, are fairly durable, and can be washed with soap and water and reused.

A YouTube tutorial on how to make masks out of this material without sewing anything can be found here.

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Of course, it's important to remember that even the best masks don't make us invincible.

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Whether you're wearing one or not, all social distancing and hand-washing guidelines should be followed just as rigorously.

Microbiologist Stanley Perlman also warned that people might contaminate themselves by touching the outside of the mask while putting it on or taking it off and said that hand-washing is necessary immediately after doing either.

h/t: The Washington Post, Business Insider

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