Smart Air, a social enterprise and certified B-Corp that promotes cost-effective, data-backed air filters as a solution to indoor particulate air pollution, has released the results of their latest research on DIY face mask materials, in which they tested over 30 different materials.
The new study showed that while coffee filters are extremely effective at filtering micro-particles, they score very poorly on the breathability scale, knocking them off the list of recommended DIY mask materials.
The three scarves tested ― made of merino wool, cashmere and lightweight ramie (similar to linen) ― all captured fewer than 10% of smallpox-sized particles. The worst scarf material – 100% ramie – filtered just 2.8%.
So what are the best materials?
- Bed sheets (80-120 thread count)
- Paper towels (but they are not washable or reusable)
- Canvas (0.4-0.5mm thick) and
- shop towels
Also natural materials are a better option than synthetic ones. Because synthetic fibers (like polyester) tend to be smooth, they don’t filter out particles as well as the rougher texture of natural fibers (like 100% cotton).
Remember while DIY face masks may be useful in situations like grocery stores and pharmacies where you cannot always stay six feet away from people, masks should not be used as a replacement for social distancing.