“Actually, this makes me really happy and now I know it was worth the effort. I guess the moral of this story is that using homemade masks will make us safer,” Arrowsmith said.

How to make a mask

Arrowsmith constructed the masks with ties rather than elastics to avoid sterilization or disinfectant breakdown.

Double-layered masks constructed from all-cotton tea-towels show the most filtration promise. However, there is a tradeoff between comfort, breathability and filtration. A double layer of high-weave, all-cotton material is a safe bet. If sewing yourself, pre-wash the material to make sure to account for any shrinking.

“I used a 100% cotton cloth with two layers. I theorized that the mask should capture more than half the particles it came into contact with. I also added a pocket between the layers for an insertable HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter which would make the capture rate even higher. I purposely stayed away from synthetic blends since I wanted my masks to withstand under high heat or chemical sterilization,” said Arrowsmith.

To make your own, you can follow directions on Arrowsmith’s YouTube tutorial. For more information, visit the CDC website.

Christine Lewis

PhD candidate and science writer, Biodesign Institute Center for Applied Structural Discovery and the School of Molecular Sciences