Your cloth facemask
Is more than fashion
Face masks have become more than a recommended safety measure in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now an indispensable fashion accessory. Experts maintain that any mask is better than no mask at all. The Center for Disease Control, CDC and other international health bodies updated guidelines recommend wearing a cloth covering or a mask when it is difficult to maintain physical distancing especially if youre going to be outdoors, such as when you go shopping.
Why should you wear face mask?
Face masks that cover the mouth and nose act as a barrier against droplets which may contain disease causing agents like viruses and bacteria.
As it is with COVID-19 or common cold, most other disease causing organisms are very tiny that they can conveniently pass through certain porous materials.
Also, following the scarcity of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the world over, getting a recommend mask such as N95 mask is near impossible. So, the World Health Organisation advised that fabric face masks if used properly could help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other disease causing organisms. Thus, choosing a good mask and disinfecting it properly cannot be overemphasized.
Anyone can make a fabric face mask at home without necessarily being a professional dress maker, just knowing how to join or fold is a start.
How to make a cloth face mask
What types of fabrics are good for a cloth face mask?
Fabric facemasks go beyond fashion in this pandemic as certain types of fabrics may not be ideal for a mask.
According to an article by Maria Cohut, Ph.D. and fact checked by Allison Kirsop, Ph.D. “a combination of either cotton and chiffon or cotton and natural silk, both of which appear to effectively filter droplets and aerosols”
For a Do-it-yourself (DIY) facemask, youll need the following materials to sew a face mask with a filter:
- A filter: expert bodies such as CDC or WHO do not recommend including a filter but it offers a heightened sense of protection. You can improvise with coffee filters, a HEPA vacuum bag or air conditioning filter. This method doesnt have any scientific evidence to support the use of these types of filters.
- Cotton fabric: Cotton fabrics are organic, common, highly breathable and absorbent. Cotton fabric is obtained from the fibers surrounding the seeds of cotton plants. They chemically organic hence, do not contain synthetic compounds. Cotton is commonly used to make warm-weather clothing. For the mask, consider using tightly woven materials such as quilting fabric, T-shirt fabric, or high thread-count fabric from pillowcases or sheets.
- Elastic material: An elastic material serves for some flexibility. Guidelines from CDC suggest several household elastic items. Any material capable of stretching like cloth strips, rubber bands, hair ties, or string could work. You can also use bias tape. Other things to try to include shoe strings or rickrack –anything thats easily adjustable or you can tie!
- Sewing materials: A portable hand sewing machine, scissors, needle and thread.
How to use your cloth face mask ?
Cloth face masks if used properly can reduce the spread of COVID-19 as it provides a barrier to catch the respiratory droplets that are released when people cough, sneeze, or talk. Its advisable you wear your mask if youre going be in a confined environment or in the midst of people.
Masks can be inconveniencing especially while adjusting to a new way of life. However, before going out ensure that your cloth face mask:
- is properly worn around your ear loops or tied behind your neck.
- fits well, is cosy and comfortable.
- serves as a barrier and allows you breathe without difficulty.
- has at least two layers of fabrics and is made with appropriate materials.
Theres always the temptation to scratch or touch your face. Masks increase the amount of moisture on your face. This allows microbes to be trapped and logged in. Whatever be the case, avoid touching your mask or your face. If you fail at this, be sure to always use your hand rub or wash your hands afterwards.
When its time to remove the mask, ensure that:
- you have clean hands (always wash your hands for at least 20seconds).
- you do not touch the filter surface of your mask. Rather, remove it using the loops or strings.
The major portal of entry for viruses and other microbes include your nose, mouth, even eyes. Peradventure your hands arent clean or youre not sure when you last washed or used your hand rub, its wise to keep your hands off your mouth, nose, or eyes during removal.
Thoroughly washing your hands may not totally eliminate microbes but will drastically reduce your chances of contracting pathogens after taking your mask off.
Can you share a reusable cloth face mask?
No! Not even with a trusted person. In Nigeria, the government made it compulsory to put on a face mask in public places or risk a sanction. Shockingly, despite over 50,000 cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, a lot of Nigerians still doubt its existence. Some even use it to mock political office holders who are regular health tourists.
I encountered a pathetic situation recently. I boarded an autorickshaw (tricycle) to the market. To my surprise, I saw a tricycle driver, two lanes away, hand over a used cloth face mask to a passenger who had none to avoid being harassed by police officers who were just a few yards away conducting a road check.
Before I could say Jack Robinson, the lady already had the mask on. It was the dumbest and most disgusting thing I saw that week. I decided to take advantage of the traffic to reach out and admonish her.
She dismissed me with a wave of her hand and mumbled something in Hausa which is interpreted as, ‘dont lecture me about the disease of the rich. I still tried to get to talk to her before the traffic eased up. The experience was revealing to me. It exposed the information gap and the fact that people are oblivious to their vulnerabilities.
A contaminated mask is a potential risk for disease spread. Therefore, your cloth face masks should never be shared. Most importantly, be sure to discard a mask that has become less protective.
How to care for your cloth facemask?
Viruses and other pathogens can be suspended as aerosols. Droplets are the medium through which the virus is spread from person to person. Dr. Steve Pergam, MPH, medical director of infection prevention at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance affirms this to be true. More so, if a nearby person inhales these dews or they get in contact with their mouth or nose, the chances of contracting a pathogen is fairly high.
If a person touches a contaminated mask then proceeds to touch their mouth or nose, they might also potentially contract an infection. Therefore, your mask(s) should be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
Here are a few tips to safely disinfect common types of masks for reuse during the pandemic. It also includes ways you can handle medical-grade masks that cant easily be cleaned as it should be outside of a medical setting.
Washing your cloth face mask with a washing machine
- always wash your hands before touching household items such as the washing machine
- Carefully remove your cloth face mask, ensure you dont touch your eyes, nose, or mouth afterwards especially after touching the filter surface.
- Add your regular laundry detergent along with bleach as applicable.
- Use warm water when possible or as recommended for the fabric type.
- Throw the mask straight into the washing machine.
- Once youre done and the mask is laundered, dry on high heat until its completely dry.
Hand washing your cloth face mask
Follow the same procedure as earlier explained with donning your cloth face mask.
Getting rid of the pathogens is just as simple, simply
- Soak your cloth face mask in a 1:6 bleach solution (1 portion of household bleach to 6 portions of water ) for at-least 10 minutes.
- Subsequently, rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- Expose your washed cloth mask to sunlight and allow the mask to air-dry.
Bonus tip: How to handle medical-grade masks
You probably know that surgical grade masks are disposable. In other words, should be discarded after every use.
However, only if properly disinfected and with the right tool, the masks can be reused in specialized settings. For instance, FFP2, N95, and KN95 masks can all be disinfected by UVC germicidal irradiation or vapor phase hydrogen peroxide. However, its important to note that, no tests have been performed on surgical mask disinfection or reuse, as the demand for such is pretty low.
Other things to note while using a cloth face mask
- Its now common practice to use masks for longer than normal. In such cases, especially when you cant replace your mask between tasks, taking breaks to inspect your mask is essential. More importantly, the inspection should be sustained when you take it off.
- If you wear a lot of makeup, using a facemask would increase the amount of moisture on your face. This will make the mask dirty, torn, or saturated with moisture. When this happens, its advisable to dispose the mask.
- If your masks appear clean and intact, then, you can store it in a clean paper bag or other breathable container between use.
Note: ensure not to let the two surfaces come in contact. Normally, disposable face masks should NOT be reused.
Bonus 2: How to handle your face shield
In June 2020, the Nigerian Centre for Disease control (NCDC) in one of its Press releases, briefed Nigerians on the safety measures to adopt. NCDC confirmed that more and more people in the country now resort to using face shields, in place of face masks, as they become more widely available.
Face shields, like the facemask, provide some protection against droplets but are not totally dependable. You must always use your facemask alongside your face shield. By design, it is open on the sides, so you still risk getting infected as it doesnt provide protection from sneezes or coughs behind you.
However, you must always clean your face shield. To that, here are a few tips to be mindful of:
- Wash your hands for at least 20seconds or use alcohol hand rubs.
- Using a clean cloth or handkerchief soaked with your regular detergent or soap, wipe down the inside first.
- Do the same on the reverse side.
- Wipe down the outside using a disinfectant wipe or clean wet cloth soaked with a disinfectant solution.
- Sun dry or allow the face shield to air-dry.
- Lastly, wash your hands when youre done.
The bottom line
Face masks when used properly and in combination with a face shield are an important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other pathogens. Surgical face masks provide protection in a single use, though it can be cleaned or discarded after use.
Cloth face masks might not be 100% effective, nonetheless, when used properly, can reduce your chances of contracting germs. The filtering surface should be made of at least 3 layers of filters. Since its reusable, it should be sanitized by laundering it.
Health experts maintain that cloth face masks, bandanas, scarves, and neck gaiters are all types of face masks can be cleaned and reused.
Thank you very much for reading today’s post to the end. If you’ve got value, please do not hesitate to share with your loved ones. Information on this blog represents the views of the blogger and do not serve as a substitute for a comprehensive healthcare. For more clarity consult your health care professionals or contact us. Lastly, subscribe to our blog for more interesting health and wellness gist.
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