A study conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University has found that the best type of non-medical face mask to protect against coronavirus is a stitched mask made from two layers of quilting fabric.
With mask-wearing mandatory or at least encouraged in many areas to slow the spread of the virus, many Americans have taken to making DIY masks or buying low-cost ones from the store. While none of these masks reach the level of effectiveness that medical-grade masks and respirators do, some of them are still better than others.
In the study, researchers used a mannequin head, a manual pump, and a smoke generator to approximate a human sneeze. Then, they mapped the paths of droplets to see how they were altered by various kinds of masks.
According to the study, droplets from an uncovered cough could travel over 8 feet. But with various kinds of masks, that distance was much more limited. Here’s how each type stacked up against each other.
Stitched-quilting fabric mask: 2.5 inches
Cone-style mask: 8 inches
Folded cotton handkerchief: 1.25 feet
Bandana: 3 feet
This data helps explain why organizations like the WHO and the CDC recommend masks in settings where social distancing is not possible. The WHO also says that mask-users should make sure it’s not too loose and that it covers both the mouth and nose. Additionally, wearers should keep them in a clean bag if they plan to reuse them, and wash them daily with soap and water.
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