Coronavirus DIY Facemask Test

In Houston the Coronavirus (COVID-19) response has been quite aggressive. And as the third largest metro area in the US, it should be. I get it. Mostly we are quarantined in place except for grocery store runs and emergency needs. (And we can walk the dog, but that’s about it.)

The paper section in the Walgreens across the street looks like this

Walgreens paper goods in Houston

This led to research on what we could do and turned up two interesting pieces of knowledge about the coronavirus.

A) How long is the coronavirus contagious or viable by surface. As in how long can it be there and still infect you?

  1. plastic = 3 days
  2. Stainless Steel = 3 days
  3. Cardboard = 1 day
  4. Copper = 4 hours
  5. Airborne = 3 hours

They don’t mention wood, which maybe varies by paint, varnish, etc.

Copper is the winner. Cardboard three times better than stainless steel is bizarre as well.

Source: https://apple.news/ATWmOdE4STTmvJCBdURGDTQ

Next up, if you can’t get a mask for when you do go out, how do other materials compare to a medical mask?

Clean vacuum cleaner bags were a close second to surgical masks, but in the end they conclude you can barely breath through them so use two cotton “tea towels.”

Two Cotton Tea Towels are best after a real mask.

Thus began an insomnia driven test to try and create a coronavirus diy mask from a tea towel with no power tools. It started like this:

The real mask before photo

Then the build process using paper as my makeshift mold.

My materials.

The Ghirardelli chocolate and wine are a tip of the hat to my friends in San Francisco on complete lockdown. Those aren’t technically necessary to make the DIY coronavirus mask, although they do help.

Gave myself extra room
Rough initial stencil
Evolution of mask into 3D space with tale

In the above photo the template is overlapping and kind of mushed into the real mask so I could get an idea of the shape of the masks. They are not circular because your face isn’t a flat circle either.

Initial stencil with original mask on top for comparison
Applied to the fabric, then used the fabric to make the second layer via singer iron-on stick tape. You could use pins

Then a whole bunch of adjustments and cuts happened at the fabric level during hand sewing. The SINGER iron stick is a temporary way to hold fabric together, but definitely not strong enough to be a permanent join. But it’ll hold it together long enough for you to stitch it up.

Rough cut comparison of the diy coronavirus mask and the original.

The straps on my version are the edges of the towel because I didn’t have any elastic bands that long, and if people in countries with limited supplies available, the straps seemed more realistic.

A truly rustic looking diy coronavirus mask

It’s hard to tell in the photo above but between the two layers there is a small wire bent to the approximate shape of the bridge of my nose just like the more flexible one that comes on the real masks.

And the final result

My advice? Buy it if you can.

It looks amateurish, I look ridiculous, but it’s waaaaay better than taking the BARTT in SF and wondering if the person coughing is giving you an infection.

Update: I received some questions about what I used for the metal “nose bridge” so I’m adding further details.

For me (easier way below) I go by autozone at the end of a rainy day and pull the broken / discarded windshield wiper blades. If you rip them apart there are two thin, but very sturdy, pieces of metal attached to the rubber part. (they make great tension wrenches.) mine looks like this when sewn in place in between the two layers of the cotton kitchen towel.

DIY Coronavirus Face Mask Nose Bridge

Easier alternative: bend paperclips like this:

For Comparison, Paper Clips vs. Scraps from Wipers
Bend the paper lips twice. This is step 1, then twist.
Overlay the paperclip nose bridge to the length you want
Wrap paperclips in tape to avoid sharp edges.
Wrap them in tape and cut off excess tape
Bend to shape. Actually much easier than my original

Pro tip: when I do a DIY project like this I usually hand sew them using dental floss. Yes “Dental Floss” because it’s always around and stronger than most threads.