Skip to main content

What Are the Best Fabrics to Make a Face Mask for Coronavirus?

Woman making face mask

Since the Centers for Disease Control recommended Americans wear “cloth face coverings” in public to stave off COVID-19 infections, questions arose about the best types of materials to use when creating face masks.

The reasoning behind CDC’s new suggestion? Tiny coronavirus particles can be transferable through larger mucus and water droplets — like, say a cough or sneeze — and wearing a facial covering or mask could block those outgoing droplets from escaping.

When finding the right fabric to make your DIY coverings (especially if you haven’t been able to buy one online), a good rule of thumb is to follow Dr. Scott Segal’s light rule.

“Hold [the fabric] up to a bright light,” Segal, chairman of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, told the New York Times. “If light passes really easily through the fibers and you can almost see the fibers, it’s not a good fabric. If it’s a denser weave of thicker material and light doesn’t pass through it as much, that’s the material you want to use.”

The good news is, most of the fabrics doctors recommended are probably in our closets. Ahead are some effective materials to make your own face masks.

Linens

Bed sheets and pillowcases

First reported by the Washington Post, in 2013, Cambridge University researchers studied the effectiveness and breathability of homemade mask materials. For example, using vacuum cleaner bags as a face cover ranked high in terms of filtering particles, but obviously ranked low in breathability.

The study concluded that masks and coverings made using linens (think: bed sheets and pillowcases) with at least a 180 thread count was found to be the best balance between the two variables.

100 Percent Cotton

Folded t-shirt

First reported by NBC News, Dr. Segal along with researchers at Wake Forest Public Health tested the effectiveness of DIY masks by pumping air through the fabrics, and measuring their filtration capabilities.

They found that masks featuring one cloth only filtered one percent of particles, making them pretty useless. Rather, the best homemade coverings included two layers of “quilters cotton” i.e. fabric made from 100 percent cotton, with at least a 180 thread count, and featured a thicker weave. Some T-shirts and shirts are made from this medium weight, high-quality fabric, so make sure to check your garment’s labels before tearing it up for your homespun project.

Batik

Indonesian silk scarves

The Wake Forest Public Health study also saw that woven fabrics like batik, a colorful Indonesian cloth spun with wax and dye that has been used for scarves and pocket squares, was also comparatively effective in filtering particles as long as they were internally lined with flannel.

“But you don’t want to use a knit fabric, because the holes between the knit stitches are bigger,” Segal told NBC News.

Of course, just wearing these coverings won’t be enough to protect you from being infected. Continue to follow the rest of CDC’s guidelines, including consistently washing your hands, socially distancing, and staying at home to help flatten the curve.

Editors' Recommendations

Christian Gollayan
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As the former Associate Managing Editor, Christian Gollayan was in charge of the entire editorial team across The Manual. He…
What to Know About Wearing a Face Mask for Coronavirus
Man wears cloth face mask

For men, it’s generally held that fewer accessories are better: grab a good watch, a signet (or wedding) ring, and maybe a tasteful pair of cufflinks to complete your outfit. That advice seems even more apropos for today’s work-from-home style, where a reliable pair of noise-cancelling earbuds may seemingly be the only essential accessory. But COVID-19 has other ideas for us: Last week, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that we all wear “cloth face coverings" outside in order to slow the coronavirus' spread. However, scarce surgical masks and N-95 respirators should be left to healthcare workers who need them most.
Why We Should Be Wearing Face Masks
In an NPR interview on Monday; Dr. Harvey Fineberg of the National Academies Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases explained that the COVID-19 virus can be spread by droplets. “You know when someone is shouting in your face or talking at you, or laughing and you feel the spray? That's a large droplet.”

Fineberg went on to explain that we also create tiny droplets when we talk and breath, creating “bioaerosol particles.” Those can float around, never dropping to the ground. “It’s important that, in closed spaces like patient care rooms, our health care professionals have the right goggles as well as the masks,” he says. Wearing a protective covering, even if it's just a cloth mask, can help prevent those droplets from spreading.

Read more
26 must-have things every man should own
There are certain things every man needs. Check out our list to upgrade your life
Man looking at watch and drinking coffee

There are things that society deems as a man's needs. Fast cars, big cigars, and shiny toys — these are what a man needs, right? Wrong. What a man genuinely needs are things that will improve his everyday life. From using them and getting the job done to simply enjoying them on an aesthetic level, these things are meant to make life easier, not more complex.

These items most probably require trial and error, so we went ahead and gathered some of the most trusted products in each category. Here are 26 things every man should own in 2023.

Read more
Mitchell & Ness teamed up with Miller Lite on throwback gear to help you look like your dad
We love this Mitchell & Ness collection for Miller Lite
mitchell and ness miller lite athletic wear collaboration x  amp club collection full suit 3

 

It seems everyone loves the '80s, and honestly, what's not to love? The simpler times, the yuppies, MTV, and, of course, the fashion. Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co., a renowned seller of historically accurate vintage sports apparel, is capitalizing on that throwback trend with another partnership with Miller Lite. Together, they have launched a limited-edition collection that "gives a fresh take on the nostalgia of the original Athletic Club line" that originated in that decade. That's right! Now you can own vintage-inspired crew necks, sweatpants, t-shirts, windbreakers, and hats that will take you all the way back to that classic '80s vibe.
What's in the collection?
Pieces from the collection range from $35 to $100, according to a press release,  made with "premium fabrics, providing high-quality pieces that are built to last." This includes a classic crewneck sweatshirt that is unisex and comes with ribbed side panels for maximum stretch, ribbing at the cuffs for a truly '80s look, and the Miller Lite Athletic Club emblem on the front for $80. Also in the collection are the snapback hat in navy ($35), a navy windbreaker (because you can't have a throwback line without a windbreaker) for $100, sweats, and a 100% polyester unisex satin navy jacket ($95) to cap off the look. It can't get much more '80s than this.

Read more