See above what is said about cloth masks. Nonetheless, I have cracked my head to get the most out of reusable cloth masks because surgical masks are needed by frontline medical professionals. I am also unsure of the quality of some of the surgical masks being touted online. I would rather have a cloth mask whose performance I know, than a surgical mask of indeterminate quality. This is because, if I know the performance of a mask, I know how to take precautions. A substandard surgical mask gives false security and puts people in real danger, because they fail to take other precautions.
Research On Mask Permeability
The research above, documented HERE, shows that a mask made of tea cloth screens out 67 out of 100 viral particles, from outside in. This means that if there are 100 viral particles outside your mask, you would only breathe in 33. A surgical mask would let in 25 out of 100 viral particles. An N95 mask would let in only 1.
However, if you are sick, and you cough, the tea cloth mask will let through 90 out of 100 particles produced by you. If you are wearing a surgical mask and you cough, you would let loose into the air, 50 out of 100 viral particles produced by you. If you were wearing an N95 mask, you would pollute the air with 30 of 100 of the viral particles produced by you.
Note To Self:
The next time I see a sick person coughing into a N95 mask, I would still stay away. I would also not assume that I am safe to NOT wear a mask.
In view of the results documented in the chart above, I have assigned different types of masks for different situations.
3 Layer Cloth Masks With Insert
I use these masks when I go out to a hawker centre or market with NO aircon. I am counting on the high humidity and high temperatures to reduce the viral loads in the air. For greater comfort and added protection, I have an insert of wet wipes, washed, soaked in salt solution and then dried. See HERE for how salt protects against the viral particles. These inserts are changed out every 2 hrs, and thrown away.
I do also wash the inserts and reuse, if my family members bring them home.
I know that these masks offer the least protection, and that they SPREAD disease if not washed OFTEN. So, I don't have a sense of false security. I use them carefully.
These cloth masks allow me to insert a high quality medical grade surgical mask. The cloth pocket prolongs the life of the surgical mask. This means that I end up using as few surgical masks as possible. I use these masks in air-conditioned environments with low humidity, where the Covid19 virus floats better and stays active longer.
For added protection, I can also insert a wet wipe, washed and soaked in a salt solution, then dried. The point is to make 1 surgical mask last as long as possible so that there are more left over for frontline medical personnel.
I know that this mask combo offers better protection than the cloth ones, but not 100%. So again, I do not have a sense of false security. I wash these often and heat sterilise religiously. I also ensure I stay away from airconditioned places as much as possible.
I have kept these in reserve for times when we need to go to the doctor's clinic or to the hospital. I have them, but pray that I will never need to use them.
Supply chains are being disrupted worldwide. Going forwards, it won't be easy to get good quality masks even if one is willing to pay. I have only a limited quantity of good surgical masks, and N95 masks. I don't want to use them indiscriminately and run out before this ends.
Even though this is an N95 mask, I know that there is no such thing as 100% protection. So, again, I do not have a false sense of security.
Stay home is best... as this cute song advises HERE.
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