Making a face mask at home

Earlier people were told that ordinary facemasks were only effective at preventing those who were infected from spreading it, but did not do anything for those who were not already infected from getting infected. For that one needed the more sophisticated N95 masks. We were also told that we should reserve the existing supply of facemasks for those in the medical profession and other essential service personnel. That sounded reasonable and so I did not try to get any masks for myself

That advice seems to be changing. Now all people in certain areas are being urged to wear facemasks when they go outside. But how does one get hold of one now? I have not been inside a pharmacy or any other store for a month. Do they now have masks on the shelves?

For those who want one and can’t get one, there are various do-it-yourself options. This one (via Carla Sinclair) seems pretty straightforward to make though I have not tried it. I will do so if it becomes absolutely necessary.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    A CBC reporter interviewed people who were taking exercise in Central Park. One woman expressed dismay at the number of people not wearing masks…as she adjusted her mask, which had slipped under her nose, by bringing her hands to her face. Probably not for the first, or last, time. If yer mask don’t fit, it ain’t worth shit.

    The mask in the video does appear to address the fitting problem.

  2. xohjoh2n says

    Just a wild thought, no idea why it just popped into my head…

    Don’t you just hate it when you get to the end of a YouTube video, and theres a bunch of text on the last screen. Or maybe it’s in the middle of the video, and you’ve paused it *specifically* so you can read the text before it disappears…

    …then YouTube pops up a picture-in-picture suggestion for the next thing you should watch, covering the text so you can’t see it anymore, and there is, as far as I can tell, no goddamn way to get rid of it.


  3. says

    @Lofty, I disagree that masks are protective amulets. They work -- click-. The evidence is not conclusive, but it is not non-existent and as more evidence emerges, more experts recommend them.
    Czechia has, as of today, 604 Covid-19 cases per million, compared with Germany which has 1616 per million. The countries share a border, a trade, and a significant portion of the workforce was crossing the border daily up until recently. The main differences are that Czechia reacted sooner with strict stay-at-home measures than Germany and introduced mandatory face masks in public. There was also conducted research on if badly fitting masks are better than none and its preliminary conclusion was that they are better, although I cannot find it now.
    Only they are not supposed primarily to work as personal protection, they are supposed to work as a kind of herd immunity, slowing the spread of the virus from those who have it but do not know it due to being asymptomatic. Thus they work as intended only when everybody has them.
    And in this case, they also work if everybody has them but they do not fit perfectly. Even badly fitting face masks catch some of the droplets when you speak, cough or sneeze. Between no-mask and a perfectly fitting mask is a spectrum of efficacy, they are analog, not binary. And the complement, not replace, social distancing and scrupulous hygiene.

  4. Fireman Sam says

    Poland, which also shares a sizable border with Czechia, is only reporting 231/mm which is substantially lower than Czechia, yet they’re efforts to stem this virus has been the opposite of Czechia — i.e. rather slow to implement containment measures until very recently. Are we to conclude that Poland’s behavior here is something to be mimicked due to their lower infection rates? That is the kind of assumption Charly is working off of here. I hate to repeat the old canard but it applies to your argument — correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

    I agree that that common sense tells us that masks likely do help slow the spread, but we don’t really know. Masks might instead have a counter-intuitive result when implemented across a large population not trained in their use. Public health officials have warned that masks might give people a false sense of security and thus, unconsciously lead them to violate voluntary stay-at-home requests more often, they might actually cause people to place their hands upon their faces far more as they apply, remove, and adjust the masks for which they are not used to using. They do become saturated with the users expectorant when not changed regularly, making them a possible reservoir for this virus too as people adjust them then handle things in their environment. People will undoubtedly also fail to throw them away regularly (or dispose of them properly in hazardous waste containers bound for incineration) making them another health hazard, and mandatory laws will also undoubtedly lead to many people sharing used masks just to stay “legal” rather than safe.

    As a paramedic fireman (we use the N95s rather than simple surgical masks) I can tell you there are a lot of simple and obvious ways one can completely defeat a mask entirely through misuse (such as simply touching the mask cup with your fingers), as well as increase contamination risks to the wearer if not handled/used properly while they are being used in a contaminated environment. I’m not convinced that masks will do any good in our current pandemic but I do understand that common sense tends to make us think they do. The reality, however, is we simply don’t know yet…and my own experience as a near-daily user of face masks, people not used to wearing them, and who have little or no training in their use, may possibly be worse off than having no mask at all. Mask ordinances IMHO might simply create unnecessary complications to an already difficult situation.

  5. says

    @Charly, if masks act as a sign for others to keep their distance from you, then they might have some benefit. But if you fiddle with the mask and (worse still) use it all day without disinfection, it will just be a concentrated mess of reinfection for you to carry around. As it stands, public use of masks is probably slightly more effective than using a band-aid for a broken arm. I’d prefer to leave it to medical professionals to use them in strict accordance with the maker’s instructions.

  6. says

    @Lofty, Fireman Sam, I do agree with you both to an extent, I have said the evidence is not conclusive yet and that masks certainly do not replace other measures.

    But re.
    -Poland: it had performed three times fewer tests per million than Czechia and four times fewer than Germany. So the key word here might also be “reporting”. Poland might just be underreporting of what is really there. Further, in absolute cases, the growth in Poland is faster than in Czechia and slower than in Germany.
    -Reinfection: the virus cannot survive on cloth for a prolonged time, it cannot reproduce there, and people are advised to wash and iron the masks. So probably most of them do it.
    -Prolonged wear in general: Probably non-issue. Everybody here hates wearing the masks, they are uncomfortable. So everybody does it the least amount of time they can. The recommendation also is only to wear them shortly and only when contact with other people is unavoidable.
    -Correlation: I know it does not necessarily mean causation, but where there is causation, there also is a correlation. So if there is a correlation and a plausible hypothesis, it is worth to look into it and not dismiss it out of hand. And if your hypothesis is unlikely to cause any harm if false, but can save lives if true, it is better to act as if it is true until more data is available.

    Research, if homemade masks are better than nothing, and if widespread use of masks helps, is scarce and hard to find, but it is there. -click-, -click-, -click-, -click-, -click-

    And lastly, the virus seems to be slowing across continental north and central Europe recently. And this part of Europe had recently for several weeks abnormally sunny and dry weather. And that might be one of the variables currently muddling the waters right now too.

    This mess of variables is not easy to untangle, if it was, ouf life would be easier. Regarding masks, there is no expert consensus yet, and there are experts on both sides. But it seems to me the direction in which the consensus shifts is against what you imply.

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