Enough time has passed since the beginning of the pandemic to assess the protection levels of fabric masks down to the smallest detail. Is a cotton mask better than one made from cotton and silk? What about thin, fabric-made masks versus thick ones? How do they rank in the current face protection clothing collection?

Some experts say so, others say so. But everyone agrees on one thing that we’re about to discuss.

Scott Gottlieb, MD, is not a fan of cloth face masks. Last Sunday on Face the Nation, Dr. Gottlieb, former US commissioner. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many other types of face protection equipment, like the N95 mask or the FFP2, can provide 90% to 95% protection. He said that cloth masks offer no more than 30% protection.

However, this percentage of effectiveness can increase if the mask has padding that is not entirely cotton. Fat is important, said Dr. Gottlieb. And if the mask is made of a cotton-polyester blend, all the better.

Similar but slightly different points of view

In a recent study of their effectiveness, Stephen Salter, mechanical engineer and president of Farallon Consultants Ltd in Victoria, British Columbia, found that cloth masks can play an important role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 – and they are costly to use.

Masks are necessary to block breath droplets that people expel when they cough, sneeze, and speak. Depending on the environment, these droplets remain suspended in the air for a long time. Mr. Salter’s study showed that face masks made from various materials, including cotton, were 70% to 90% effective. But the fabric makes a difference.

Loosely woven fabrics have greater spacing between the threads than tightly woven fabrics. However, adding a watt layer like the one used in quilting provides additional protection.

The researchers subjected 17 hand-made cotton swab masks to 35 tests to check the filter effectiveness.

Although these masks were thicker (between 3.7 and 7 millimeters) when made with cotton wool, they were 76% to 90% effective at filtering aerosols.

However, the researchers indicated that proper fit is also important. Masks are sold as one size, but that’s not really the case. Some may need larger masks to properly cover their nose and mouth.

Another study published in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society, came up with similar results. The researchers tested common fabrics in masks with various combinations such as cotton and silk, cotton and chiffon, and cotton and flannel. The bottom line was that multiple layers of fabric accelerated the filtration of fabric masks.

Why you need face masks

The agreed point: it is important to wear a mask. Dr. Gottlieb recommended a national mask mandate to slow the spread of the virus, adding that the mandate does not require penalties or strict enforcement.

“We have an opportunity right now to take some vigorous steps to reduce the spread. But if we don’t, if we miss that window, it will accelerate further and it will be harder to get under control, ”he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the use of face masks to reduce the chance of droplets of liquid being sprayed or caught when you cough, sneeze, or speak. You are a physical barrier. When you combine masks with physical distancing, your chances of getting COVID-19 are less than those of those who don’t follow safety guidelines.

Do we need masks as soon as a vaccine against the virus is available? Dr. Gottlieb said even if a vaccine is approved and distributed, the elderly and healthcare workers are very likely to get the first round. “You won’t have protective immunity until 2021,” he said. It also takes time to build immunity, even after a vaccine. “So this vaccine is not going to affect the contours of what … is going to happen.” in the next two or three months. “

The take away

Cloth masks can reduce COVID-19 transmission. They also help with your tight budget. Experts are concerned that people wear their masks properly and wash them after use. You can wash fabric masks by hand or in a washing machine with detergent and preferably warm water.

Always check the fit, whether you choose a disposable surgical mask or a cloth mask. The mask must cover your face and nose and go under your chin and over your cheeks. Masks that are not worn properly have no effect.

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