Hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap aren’t the only health items that have become difficult to find since the novel coronavirus made its way to the United States; surgical face masks, such as the popular N95 mask or N95 respirator, have also been flying off the shelves.
Because coronavirus is an airborne illness, it makes sense that so many people are rushing to stock up on respirators and surgical masks. If you’re having a hard time finding any in your area, the good news is that you can make your own. Before you get started, however, there are some things you need to know.
Potential Benefits and Drawbacks of Surgical Masks
Reasons to Wear a Face Mask or Mouth Mask
There is always concern about the spread of germs when you’re in close quarters with other people. For example, if you ride a crowded subway or other public transportation to and from work each day, you might be worried about catching something from the person sitting next to you. By wearing a surgical mask or other types of respirator masks, you can effectively filter out some of the airborne particles (including some viruses) that would otherwise find their way to you. In this sense, wearing a surgical mask can provide you with some additional protection and peace of mind, especially if you spend time in larger crowds regularly.
Understanding the Limits of Surgical Face Masks
It’s important to understand that wearing a surgical mask (also commonly referred to as a mouth mask) will not automatically protect you from catching coronavirus (or any other airborne virus, for that matter). Even N95 masks, which are among the most effective facial masks available, can only block out about 95% of small particles when worn properly (hence the N95 name for the filtration efficiency). The N95 respirator is the most common of the seven types of particulate filtering facepiece respirators. This product filters at least 95% of airborne particles or N95 particulates but is not resistant to oil.
Also, you’ll want to understand your own physical limitations. Surgical masks can cut down on airflow, which can be a problem for those with respiratory problems (such as asthma). If you have any physical conditions that may make wearing a surgical mask dangerous to your health, be sure to talk to your doctor before proceeding.
How to Make Your Own Surgical Face Mask
Because N95 respirators and other types of surgical face masks or mouth masks have become difficult to come by, many people find themselves in a situation where they need to make their own. Even if you do have access to face masks or an N95 respirator mask in your area, you may want to consider DIYing your own, anyway. This will help to ensure that others who truly need those face masks (like those working in the medical field) can continue to get the protection they need.
A quick online search will yield all kinds of results for DIY surgical mask tutorials, but the one we’re outlining here is about as simple and straightforward as it gets. There is no need for any sewing experience, and there’s a good chance you already have all the supplies you need to whip up one of these masks in just a few minutes.
What You’ll Need For A DIY Face Mask or DIY N95 Mask
To get started, you’ll need:
- paper towels (at least a few sheets per N95 mask)
- rubber bands (shoelaces or string will also work)
If you’d prefer to make a washable mask (one that can be reused rather than replaced), you can also use a t-shirt in place of the paper towels. If you are using a t-shirt, it’s a good idea to bleach and wash it before use—especially if there is any chance it has been contaminated in any way.
Putting it Together
To create your face mask, begin by taking two or three squares of paper towel and layering them on top of each other. If you’re using a t-shirt, simply cut the shirt into several equal sections and stack them on top of each other (just be sure that the size is large enough to cover your mouth and nose).
Next, begin creating small accordion folds in the paper or t-shirt fabric until the entire mask is folded into a long, thin rectangle. At this point, you can attach your rubber bands, shoelaces, or other string. This can be done by punching a hole through the ends of the mask material and simply looping the band through, or by gluing or stapling.
From there, gently unfold the mask material until it is stretched out enough to cover your chin, mouth, and nose. You can then check and adjust the fit of the rubber bands as needed.
Getting the Most Out of Your Surgical Face Mask
Now that you know how to make or create your own surgical face mask, there are a few more tips worth following to get the most out of yours.
Ensure a Tight Fit
Ideally, your mask should fit snugly around your mouth and nose to reduce the number of foreign particles that can enter the particulate respirator, mask N95 or N95 mask.
Replace or Wash Regularly
If using paper towels for your DIY mask or homemade N95 mask, you’ll want to make enough so that you can change your mask regularly (at least once a day and possibly more, depending on how often you wear it). As soon as your mask becomes damp or wet, it needs to be changed out; that’s because a wet mask can make you even more susceptible to infection and other health problems.
If you’re making a t-shirt mask (or a mask out of another washable fabric), consider making two so that you can always have one in the wash and one readily available to wear.
Only Wear When Necessary
In reality, people who are showing symptoms are the ones who should be wearing these masks out in public. However, if you insist on wearing a mask to protect yourself, limit the amount you wear it to times when you are actually out in a large crowd. Remember that when you wear a surgical mask, you are restricting air and oxygen flow to your body—so you don’t want to wear it when it’s not really needed.
More Best Practices For Protecting Yourself
Keeping a clean home is always important—but when cold and flu season rolls around, it’s perhaps more vital than ever to the surfaces of your home disinfected for any virus. In addition to having face masks on-hand or other personal protective equipment, there are some other measures you should be taking to protect yourself against the spread of any type of virus. The best thing you can do is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds at a time, as well as keeping your hands away from your face.
Keeping a clean home can also go a long way in reducing the spread of germs. Too busy for everyday cleaning and disinfecting? Let our team at Maid Sailors take care of you! Contact us today to find out more about our cleaning services offered; we’d be happy to schedule your first appointment with our professional team at your convenience.