New research shows that face coverings with multiple layers are more efficient at preventing droplet dispersal compared to cloth mask with single or double layers only.
Months after coronavirus was declared as a pandemic, homemade face mask has undoubtedly turned into a staple item when it comes to COVID-19 prevention. Yet, despite public health officials’ and medical experts’ reminder to use face coverings, many still doubt its role in preventing coronavirus from spreading.
However, a new study conducted by Australian-based researchers suggests that a homemade face mask is as effective as a three-ply medical mask.
Single-layer cloth mask not as effective as three-ply mask
According to research recently published by Thorax, the effectiveness of the do-it-yourself face mask varies depending on how many layers of cloth are used. And based on the researchers’ observations, they found out that multiple—three-ply coverings, to be exact—provides better protection than those with single or two layers only.
“A cloth face covering with at least two layers is preferable to a single-layer one,” wrote Prateek Bahl, the lead author of UNSW study.
Medical experts conducted the study at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Using LED lighting and a high-speed camera, the researchers examined whether face mask made of cloth with single and multiple layers can reduce and prevent the dispersal of respiratory droplets when coughing, sneezing, and speaking.
They then compared the results with that of a three-ply surgical mask.
As per their conclusion, a three-ply homemade face mask is the most effective in preventing droplets dispersal when a person sneezes, coughs, and speaks. Double-ply face covering, on the other hand, can prevent airborne transmission when coughing and sneezing, while single-layer can stop droplets when speaking.
Homemade face mask as prevention
The use of a face mask has become a hot topic in the United States. It even incited several incidents where anti-mask customers verbally and physically harassed retail workers.
Earlier this month, economists from Goldman Sachs also found that using face masks regularly can save the U.S. economy from five percent GDP loss, suggesting that a national mask mandate can help alleviate the impact of the pandemic to the country’s economy.
However, the director-general of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that people should not be over-reliant on face masks. He said that “face mask alone will not protect you” and that it is not a substitute for vital health protocols, including proper hand hygiene and physical distancing.
Ben Cowling, professor of epidemiology at the University of Hongkong, also shares the same view.
“The argument about everybody wearing a mask is not that it will prevent everyone from getting infected — it is that it will slow down transmission in the community a bit,” Cowling told the Business Insider before.
Moreover, the Australian-based researchers also note that homemade face mask efficacy is dependent on various factors and not just the number of layers used. The type of fabric, the arrangement of cloth as well as the frequency of washing can affect the mask’s effectiveness, according to them.