Making and Wearing Masks More Effectively

N95 masks are still hard to find. Ensure your homemade/bought masks
fit your face snuggly. The CDC now has new recommendations,
for cloth, and differences in respirators. Image courtesy of Mark Morrow.

This site generally doesn’t touch upon such serious subjects. Yet, with the newest, very contagious, variant Omicron, sometimes we need to.

It looks like mask-wearing will be part of our lives, for quite some time. Buying disposable masks, is costly. Buying really good grade, disposable (KN95 or N95) masks, is even more so. With so many fakes out there, it’s hard to distinguish, which are which. Below are a few options, that won’t empty your wallet.

Making Your Homemade, or Store-Bought Mask More Effective

Finding a real N95 or KN95 mask can be daunting. Even though your mask may be stamped with what looks like correct labels, you must ensure it is not counterfeit. If you’re sticking to multi-layer cloth masks, find a better filter insert.

Luckily, I came across an EPA site that explained, HEPA filters (like the ones used in vacuum bags or home air filters). The EPA states, “…Can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).”

Since N95 masks filter particles up to 0.3 microns, it makes sense to believe: HEPA filters, used within a well-fitted mask, can be almost be as efficient, as the N95.

After ordering four packs of large, HEPA vacuum bags, I cut a bag into filters. I placed them inside the mask pocket, of hospital approved homemade ones, or store-bought. The filters themselves were two layers. Add it to a double-layer cloth mask, and you’ve got four layers. Yes, you can breath through it well. We have asthma, and other breathing issues in my family. Yet, we can breath through them, without difficulty.

Re-useable: HEPA filters are reusable. Before washing your mask, pull the filter out, place the filter into a paper bag, and keep it there until the virus dies. Placing it into a paper bag prevents possible virus cross-contamination.

No Mask Pocket?

Even if your cloth mask doesn’t have a pocket, you can make one, a few different ways:

Easiest 

* This only works with masks that DON’T have a middle joining seam, attaching both layers, vertically, from nose to chin.  With a fine, sharp pair of scissors, cut ONLY the inner fabric layer, at the far edge, closest to the ear seam. (The cut would be at the solid blue line, in the image below). This makes an instant pocket opening. All you have to do is slip a filter in between the layers. Make sure the filter is large enough to cover beyond the mouth, and nose area. 

Mask image/design, courtesy of Umn.edu, and Shannon Williamson.

Add a Filter Pocket or Holder

If you choose not to cut your cloth masks, you can attach a patch of fabric to hold the filter. This would give you 5 layers. The CDC suggests which types of fabrics to use. You can attach the pocket by sewing it to your mask, or using fabric glue. I do NOT recommend using hot glue. I did use hot glue early on, and after being washed in hot water, and/or the masks sitting in the sun, the glue lost its integrity. Eventually, I had to sew or use fabric glue.

Adding Filters is NOT Enough

Not all fabric or N95/KN95 masks, will fit everyone well. Even with nose wires added, it might not give a good seal. Here are a few suggestions to making a better seal:

If your mask does not have a nose bridge wire, add one:

Tuck a pipe cleaner into the same pocket, as your filter. To keep in place, on the top of nose area, sew a few loops through, or add a dab of fabric glue.

You can wear a disposable mask with a wire bridge underneath your filtered, layered mask (essentially, double-masking) or cut the wire area of the disposable mask, and sew into your cloth one.

Strap Positions Make a Difference

The ear loop masks are known to have a lesser seal, than the double strap, head/neck ones. If your ear loops are too loose, you can add a loop adjuster and/or a strap adjuster. The strap adjuster also takes the pressure off your ears. The CDC also has a page on how to maximize the effectiveness of your masks.

Staying Safe for Everyone

My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, or are presented with struggles beyond imaginable, because of the pandemic. At the end of the day, I wish each and everyone of you, a healthy return, to whatever life you have had, pre-Covid – whenever that is possible. If we all try our best to contain this virus, maybe we’ll get there a little faster.

2 thoughts on “Making and Wearing Masks More Effectively

  1. Pingback: Which Masks are Better During Omicron? | The Write Girl for the Job Blog

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