IMPORTANT: Masks do not replace other safety measures. Everyone should still:
- Stay home unless it is absolutely necessary
- Stay home if you are ill (unless going to the doctor)
- Maintain 6 foot distancing when you have to go out of the house
- Frequently wash your hands!
(Note: we are not talking about the surgical mask or N95 mask reserved for health workers)
Why do you need to wear a mask?
- You or others may be contagious even when you feel completely well
- Masks can help protect you and others from spreading the virus
- Wearing the masks may help “flatten the curve” and end the stay-at-home order
Characteristics of a cloth mask:
- Mask material should be tight-woven which means a high thread count.
- When you hold it to the sun, light shouldn’t come through.
- Consider quilting cotton- some has a thread count of 120 to 180; batik fabric even higher (200).
- Some sheets such as percale are 280 to 400 thread count; old dress shirts often have high thread count (and can be found in the closet or thrift stores).
- Multiple layers are better- 2 or 3 ply- as long as the mask is breathable and comfortable. Flannel could be used on the inside.
- You can add a pocket inside for a removable filter. HEPA filters can be cut up (these filter very small particles). Some have even suggested a double paper towel. The filters should be replaced with a new one every time mask is re-worn.
- A nose bridge that gently pinches the mask onto the bridge of your nose can be sewn in. This can be made of many materials- any flexible metal (such as coated garden wire, paperclip, file folder metal, heavy-duty twist ties, and pipe cleaner) or the flexible metal used to close coffee bean bags.
- The mask should fit well. It should be comfortable but should fit firmly/tightly (you may have indent lines in your face after you remove the mask).
- Examples of masks and how to make them can be found here.
How to wear your mask correctly
- Shave your facial hair — even one day stubble interferes with fit.
- The mask should be put on inside, if the hall or outside of your door could already be contaminated, with clean hands.
- Don’t fidget and touch the mask a lot, especially the front- consider this contaminated.
- When you remove it, do not touch the front of the mask- this might be contaminated with virus from the outside. Remove it by the straps from the back of your head or ears, put it in a container or hang it to dry, then wash your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60%) or soap and water.
How to clean your mask
- Soap is very effective in disrupting/inactivating the virus which is why washing our hands with soap and water frequently is a main strategy to prevent infection. CDC says ”A washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering.” The hot setting on a washer is 130 degrees; laundry detergent is a great soap. The cloth mask could then be dried in a dryer or hung to dry.
- It is better to have several masks so you can wash the mask after use, rotating with the other(s) as these dries.
- If you don’t have a machine in your home, or cannot do frequent small loads, you could drop the mask in a container of soap and water, add hot water from your kettle until it is quite warm but not scalding, then agitate/stir the soap and water, rinse, and hang to dry.. If stirring, make sure to avoid splashing.
- Check mask for holes or tears, etc before re-wearing the mask.
How to get cloth masks:
- Sewing groups are springing up in most communities and may provide the masks for free or a small fee
- Masks are available at many stores and online
- Cure Violence Global is acquiring masks for frontline staff