With the shortage of medical face masks, the CDC is recommending that the general public use cloth face masks or cloth coverings for protection against the coronavirus. Although they do not offer maximum protection, cloth face masks create a barrier and help prevent the wearer from inhaling infected viral particles.
Various clothing brands, and other businesses, have started producing reusable cloth face masks in response to the high demand by the public. However, since cloth face masks can also easily be made at home, people have started making masks out of different clothing items and materials they already have. In addition to making masks out of t-shirts or spare pieces of cotton cloth, some are even making them out of socks.
Though these makeshift face coverings cannot compete with the effectiveness of their medical counterparts (or even a custom cloth face mask) they are an acceptable substitute when a “real” mask is unavailable. Here’s what you need to know before you make one for yourself.
The effectiveness of face masks made from socks for virus protection
The CDC recommends that cloth masks are made of two or more layers. Any simple cloth should do, but a combination of fabrics works best. The following factors help determine the effectiveness of face masks made from socks:
The number of layers
A face mask made of socks should be two layers or more to be effective. Additional filtration can be incorporated using paper towels or coffee filters.
The facial fit
The mask should adequately cover the nose and mouth of the wearer and fit the face snugly. It should not be too loose or contaminants can leak through the sides of the mask.
The importance of wearing face masks in combination with other protective strategies
It is important to remember that the use of makeshift face masks only provides a minimal amount of protection against the coronavirus. Actual medical masks have properties that cannot be replicated with a sock or other household items.
N95 respirators are medical-grade face masks that provide a higher level of protection, but they’re currently only recommended for healthcare professionals. These respirators filter 95% of airborne particles down to 0.3 microns. However, even with their high efficiency, healthcare workers still need to wear other protective gear such as gloves and goggles. Reusable cloth masks, especially those that are homemade, cannot filter particles as well as respirators.
Moreover, homemade cloth masks do not go through rigorous testing procedures to prove their efficiency. That’s why it’s more important than ever to implement other protective strategies, such as repeated hand washing, when wearing homemade face masks.
You should also practice social distancing to avoid contact with potentially infected people. The spread of the coronavirus, both to and from the wearer, can be prevented most effectively by adopting all three protective strategies.
What type of socks work best?
Because socks are made to stretch and breathe, they are not an optimal solution for long-term protection from coronavirus. However, any face covering is better than no face covering at all, so if you find yourself in a bind, here’s what to look for:
- A tight weave or knit
- New socks (if possible) that have not been stretched or worn out
- Socks that can be layered, possibly with a filter in between, while maintaining breathability
How to take care of sock face masks
Every type of face mask, from medical-grade down to repurposed socks, needs to be properly cared for to be effective. When using a face mask made from socks, it is important to consider the following:
Wearing it correctly
Your mask should fit so that it does not slip around on your face. If you need to keep touching it to readjust it you’ll end up spreading around any germs on it.
Properly removing the mask
The mask should be properly removed to avoid the outside material of the mask from touching your face.
Washing the mask
After removing the mask, it should be properly stored away for washing. Reusable masks should be properly washed to eliminate possible contaminants on the masks. This helps ensure that you’re using a fresh, clean, and germ-free mask every time.
Discarding the mask
The durability of the mask’s material helps determine how many times you can wash and reuse it. Basically, you’ll need to throw out your mask when the material begins to feel worn out.
How to make a face mask using socks
Face masks made from socks are easy to make using basic, non-sew methods. Remember to try to use socks made from breathable material so that it is comfortable to wear. Cotton socks, in combination with silk and chiffon, tend to work best.
Here’s one easy method you can follow with an ankle sock:
- Place an ankle sock on a table. If you only have long socks, cut the top portion of one of them.
- Cut your sock in half between the toe and the heel. Discard the portion with the toe.
- Place the cut end at the top and the heel end to your left. Cut the right side from the ankle opening to the cut end of the sock.
- Fold the sock in half.
- At about ½ inch from the edge, cut a ½ inch slit starting from the fold. Only make the slit in the middle and do not cut all the way. This slit will make the ear loops of the mask.
- Place the ear loop around your ears. Then, adjust the mask to cover your nose and mouth adequately.
- Add a paper towel or coffee filter (optional). This goes inside the mask for more filtration.
So there you have it. No need to go maskless while you’re waiting for your “proper” mask to be delivered. A good old pair of socks will do!