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Homemade Face Masks: What Material Works Best?

Researchers Study the Effectiveness of Different Materials For Homemade Facemasks to Provide Guidance for the Public.

When social distancing is difficult, face masks can provide protection. Any face mask that is properly maintained and fits correctly will make a difference. MEZCOPH researchers developed a model for analysis and utilized existing research to evaluate how different materials used for homemade masks compare in their ability to reduce infection risk. They found that some mask materials are much more effective than others. If people must be in close proximity to each other, it is highly recommended that they wear face masks to prevent infection, and the mask material can make a significant difference in risk reduction.

Amanda Wilson, PhD candidate

Amanda Wilson, PhD candidate

Amanda Wilson, a PhD candidate in the Environmental Health Sciences Department at the Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, led the study and developed a model to compare different face mask materials based on their ability to decrease infection risks for mask wearers. Masks can be low cost interventions, and the study model shows they can reduce infection risks by 24-94% for 20-minute exposures, depending on the material type. The model also shows that materials like vacuum cleaner bags offer more protection than materials like t-shirts or scarfs. While there are many different homemade face mask designs, and both the design and the fit affect a mask’s ability to decrease infection risks, the material type can be an important factor.

Amanda M. Wilson is the author of this study in collaboration with other MEZCOPH researchers who co-authored the study and include Sarah E. Abney, Jonathan D. Sexton, PhD, and Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD.

Wilson was supported by the University of Arizona Foundation and the Hispanic Women’s Corporation/Zuckerman Family Foundation Student Scholarship Award through the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, University of Arizona.

To learn more about the best materials for your masks, read the study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7264937/

The University of Arizona