How to test whether your homemade face mask works and protects you from coronavirus

THE USE of face masks and coverings is now mandatory in shops across the country in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

With many of us turning to our own creations, experts have now revealed how well homemade coverings actually work.

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The use of masks and coverings is mandatory in shops in the UK


The use of masks and coverings is mandatory in shops in the UK Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Professor Simon Kolstoe, senior lecturer in evidence based healthcare and university ethics advisor at the University of Portsmouth says anyone can make a mask that will help to stop the spread of Covid-19.

While he highlights that the most effective masks are medical grade, he says these still need to be reserved for medical practitioners.

Masks are also mandatory on public transport and as the pandemic has progressed Prof Kolstoe said the use of coverings has become less about self-protection and more about the protection of others.

Writing in The Conversation Prof Kolstoe said their are two tests people can do to measure the effectiveness of their homemade mask or covering.

The vape test

Prof Kolstoe says if effectiveness for face coverings means preventing our breath travelling too far away from our bodies then one simple test would be to find someone who vapes and study how the vapour gets through a mask.

He said breath is directed over the top of your head and down onto your chest and added that it is turbulent – so despite the fact that it does spread,it doesn’t go far.

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Particles spread differently through face masks than they would if you were not wearing a covering


Particles spread differently through face masks than they would if you were not wearing a coveringCredit: Getty Images – Getty

The best comparison, Prof Kolstoe says, is to look at someone who is not wearing a face covering.

“You will see that the exhalation goes mostly forward and down, but a significantly further distance than with the face covering.”

Prof Kolstoe said that this test could be used for a variety of coverings such as ones that loop around your ears and scarves.

He also said that this could also help to determine how well your mask or covering fits, but cautioned that vaping particles don’t actually travel that far.

He added: “In conducting this experiment, we should appreciate that “vaping” particles are about 0.1 to 3 micrometres – significantly bigger than the virus.

“While it is probably fair to assume that the smaller virus particles will travel in roughly the same directions as the vaping particles, there is also the chance that they may still go straight forward through the face covering.”

The candle test

The second method Prof Kolstoe suggests is the candle test.

Trying to blow out a candle in front of someone wearing a mask or covering could be a great indication of how useful the covering actually is.

He said: “Initially, the distance coupled with the strength of exhalation could be investigated, but then face coverings made from different materials and critically with different numbers of layers could be tried.

The candle test could also be a good indicator of how easily particles spread


The candle test could also be a good indicator of how easily particles spreadCredit: Alamy

“The design of face covering that made it hardest to divert the candle flame will probably provide the best barrier for projecting the virus forward and through the face covering.”

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Prof Kolstoe said that these two tests can provide people with a good idea about which of their face coverings would work the best if they were exposed to the virus.

His advice comes after a weekend of chaos as the use of masks was made mandatory in shops.

McDonald’s turned away customers not wearing face coverings — but Asda, Sainsbury’s and Costa Coffee were among those who refused to eject anyone.

Police made it clear they would intervene only as a “last resort”.

Face coverings must be worn at all times in stores, supermarkets, shopping centres, banks, building societies and Post Offices. The order also applies to transport hubs such as railway stations and airports, with £100 fines for those who do not comply.

But restaurants, pubs, gyms, hairdressers, beauty salons, leisure centres, cinemas, concert halls and theatres are exempt.

Chaos and confusion on first day of compulsory face masks in England amid coronavirus pandemic


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