Nylon stockings could improve the effectiveness of homemade masks

From NPR: Photo by Loretta Fernandez

Researcher Loretta Fernandez of Northeastern University wears a homemade face mask without and with an extra outer layer made from nylon stockings (right). The added nylon outer layer significantly boosted masks’ ability to filter out small particles, her research found.

NPR Goats and Soda is one of my favorite places to read. It has news from around the world about almost any topic under the sun. In light of the world health crisis their reporters have turned their focus to COVID-19 related stories.

Maria Godoy, a senior editor with NPR has written several articles addressing public health concerns since the crisis began.

She opens with a brief history of the last time nylon stockings played a role in U.S. history and then dives into how they’re impacting public health today.

Northeastern University conducted a study that found adding a layer of nylon on top of your mask made a tighter seal around your nose and mouth, which is the primary purpose for a mask.

“In some cases, that extra nylon layer helped homemade cloth makes match or exceed the filtering capability of medical-grade surgical masks,” Godoy wrote.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has revised their recommendations to say that homemade cloth masks, which won’t necessarily prevent the wearer from getting the virus, may keep the wearer from spreading it to others.

Godoy does warn that the study has yet to be peer-reviewed. It was posted to the universities website in haste in the interest of sharing information quickly.

In her article Godoy talks to the professor who conducted the study, a professor in Hong Kong who has also studied mask efficacy and a researcher who’s authored a study comparing cloth face coverings with surgical masks.

Even with the improved nylon, there are some masks that work better than others. Masks made of tightly woven cotton (the kind used for quilting) stuffed with organic cotton batting performed best of the homemade masks.

At the end of her article Godoy leaves instructions for creating an efficient homemade mask.

There is a lot of confusing (and sometimes conflicting) information about how to stay safe from the virus. I appreciated this article because without using the words, “these are uncertain times we find ourselves in…” it acknowledged that we’re all just trying to do our best.

This is practical, applicable journalism that can potentially help people stay safe in a very simple way.