This Simple Hack Could Make Your DIY Face Mask More Effective

While we've learned more and more about the coronavirus pandemic that's keeping us in our homes and practicing social distancing, what we really want to learn more about is how we might protect ourselves and others against the virus. That's where face masks come in. 

One of the main ways COVID-19 spreads is through the microscopic droplets that fly out of the mouths of infected persons when they speak, cough, or sneeze, and "source control" is the reason why masks are so important. Research reported by The Atlantic shows that a proper cotton mask can cut the amount of virus particles that come out of our mouths by as much as 99 percent, which means two things: If we're sick, wearing a mask can help other people avoid infection altogether; and if they do get infected, the lower viral load they're exposed to thanks to the mask means there is a chance they will get a milder form of a disease.

Now, a new study reported by NPR suggests that might be a simple way to make cloths masks even more effective.

Using pantyhose can make cloth masks more effective

In the perfect world, there would be enough medical-grade masks, such as N95 and surgical masks which, when used properly, can filter out all large and most small, virus-infected droplets. But in their absence, cloth masks can reduce the spread of large droplets, although they may not be effective at all against small ones (via Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).

But researchers at Northeastern University say using pantyhose to keep your mask in place could make cloth masks work like medical N95 masks, which can filter out at least 95 percent of small droplets. Researchers say that adding the nylon outer layer could actually boost a cloth mask's ability to filter out smaller particles, because it creates a tighter seal between a mask and its wearer's nose and mouth. Even surgical masks, which were tested with an extra layer of pantyhose, did a better job of protecting its wearers (via NPR).

The finding has not been reviewed, but it may make sense to reinforce your face mask

Northeast University Assistant Professor Loretta Fernandez said (via NPR), "Adding a layer that keeps the mask tight to the face is going to improve the function of any of these masks, because how well they protect us is not only a matter of what material we're using to do the filtering but also how well [the mask] seals to the face, so that we're trying to avoid air making it around the mask into our breathing zone."

The finding has not yet been peer reviewed, and researchers still don't know whether the pantyhose stops working if it is washed a certain number of times. But even now, it makes sense for people who are using cloth masks as they go about their daily chores to start using the pantyhose for extra protection against the virus behind the pandemic.