Make Your Homemade Mask Better with Pantyhose

It seems like the last time pantyhose were in the news, the story was about whether or not Princess Megan Markle should be wearing them. They’ve recently made a comeback for much less frivolous reasons.  

As the pandemic rages on across the globe, scientists continue to try and find simple ways that we can all be safer. A study from Northeastern University has indicated that by putting a layer of nylon pantyhose underneath a cloth mask, you can increase the effectiveness of the mask by a significant amount. The thin layer of pantyhose even upped the effectiveness of 3M surgical masks.

The 3M surgical masks without pantyhose blocked around 75% of particles in the air. The masks with pantyhose blocked a shocking 90%. This is exciting news as an N95 respirator, has been found to block 95% of particles.

CDC guidance has indicated those not working in healthcare shouldn’t be using surgical masks or N95 respirators because, “those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders…” However, the effectiveness of a homemade mask by itself can be low. One study showed that they only blocked 30% of particles in the air. But by adding the pantyhose layer their effectiveness increased by up to 50%.

Why does this simple fix do the trick? Loretta Fernandez a Northeastern University assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and one of the scientists on the research team, told NPR the pantyhose is effective because, “Adding a layer that keeps the mask tight to the face is going to improve the function of any of these masks,” she says, “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.”

Fernandez also gave some recommendations on how to implement the research comfortably. “I would recommend perhaps a queen-sized [pair of pantyhose] just to make breathing easier,” Fernandez says. The user should cut a ring from the thigh area of the pantyhose and slide it over the nose and mouth, but not over the ears. The homemade mask is then placed on top. The idea is to create a tight seal, but not to make breathing hard. It might take some experimentation to get the fit right.

As of May 11, 2020 the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide was 4.15 million and in the US was 1.38 million. The death toll has reached 284,000 worldwide and 81,289 in the US. In the midst of these grim statistics, many US states are reopening with a patchwork method of differing rules and guidance for citizens. Bars, restaurants, gyms and hair salons will all soon be getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

Under these circumstances, it seems that this research couldn’t have been better timed. Americans will have to decide if it’s worth it to venture out of their homes. Anything that will give people more of a sense of security is welcome. Especially as businesses small and large continue to be crushed by the weight of the economic collapse from the pandemic.

The CDC has released guidelines on how to make masks at home. Some don’t even require a sewing machine so don’t let that stop you. It’s important to wear a mask because of the risk of being an asymptomatic carrier. That means you could have COVID-19 without symptoms but still be spreading the illness just by talking or breathing.

It seems you might have a reason to dig out the pantyhose from the back of your underwear drawer after all.

Image Source: Loretta Fernandez

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