According to the World Heath Organisation, there isn’t enough evidence on the effectiveness of DIY face masks – made from cotton and non-medical materials – for them to recommend for or against their use. However, many makers are sharing patterns for masks you can create at home, arguing that they are better than nothing, and while medical grade masks need to be saved for medical workers, why not make your own. According to a Guardian article: masks (not specified what material, so assume medically-approved) are effective at capturing droplets, which is a main transmission route of coronavirus, and some studies have estimated a roughly fivefold protection versus no barrier alone (although others have found lower levels of effectiveness). This study into homemade masks made from t-shirt jersey found that as a last resort they were better than no protection.
Image via Bluprint.
Potential advantages of more widespread mask-wearing include reducing potential exposure risks from pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic virus sufferers and to normalise mask-wearing. It also makes it harder to touch your face and may remind those around you to socially distance. Anecdotal evidence suggests people give mask wearers a wider berth on the pavement and in parks.
The WHO says that the following risks should be carefully taken into account when considering whether to wear a mask: self-contamination can occur by touching and reusing a contaminated mask, depending on type of mask used, potential breathing difficulties can occur, it may give a false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene, diversion of mask supplies and a consequent shortage of mask for health care workers.
DIY re-usable masks need to be put on and removed carefully, by only touching the ties or elastic, and need to be sterilised between each use, whether by hot wash, steaming and/or adding bleach to detergent. Because these masks have not been recommended, there is limited advice available and wearers are forced to rely on their own common sense here.
If you want to make your own DIY mask to wear while shopping or exercising in public, we have seen simple tutorials from NUNO (via Instagram) and Dosa Inc (also via Instagram). Bluprint offers several mask tutorials and Trend Patterns is offering a free mask pattern for download. Finally, FreeSewing offers an open source pattern that you can customise.