Reusable face masks, which we have been sewing in our studio for many weeks now, are for sure one of the most popular topics of recent days. In our previous text: How to sew a face mask – step by step DYI instructions we showed you how to sew a reusable face mask with a filter pocket. This time let’s focus on what to put into this pocket. We’re going to tell you what to use as a filter so that you don’t have to spend a fortune on it. We will also try to explain in simple words what makes some materials a good filter – thanks to that you will be able to decide which of the home accessories can be turned into such filter.
Face mask filter – why is it important?
Before we get to the topic of the filter itself, we will answer the question that has been appearing in your comments for several days now: does the reusable cotton mask also work without a filter? When it comes to its basic function – not touching the face – it does. But if you have a mask with a filter pocket, it is worth putting something into it that creates an extra filtering layer – an additional protective barrier. The filter is particularly important for single fabrics with a thin weave or elastic materials, because we know that many of you make masks from what you have at home.
What’s more – if we use the right materials to make the filter, they will give much more protection than the cotton itself, even if it had two layers. Remember, however, that such masks, in addition to preventing you from touching the face, are designed to protect others from us, not the other way around.
Face mask filter – what to make it from?
1. Medical interlining
To answer the question of what to use for making a face mask filter, we checked the opinions of nurses whom we give the masks to. Most of them recommended medical interlining (you can get it in online stores in the form of ready cut filters, rolls, sheets or whole bales). Medical interlining (often called by manufacturers medical nonwoven fabric) also comes in the form of underpads, sheets and other ready-made medical products. You can buy and then cut them, which is – taking into account current prices – even a few times cheaper than buying ready-made mask filters.
To understand why interlining is a good filter, let’s take a look at how it is made. There are three basic methods of making fabrics:
- woven fabrics – they are made of threads (for example cotton, from which we make our masks – when you take a closer look at it, you will clearly see the threads)
- knitted fabrics – they are made of threads, but they’re not interlaced – the loops are created instead (it’s for example tulle, which we sew in at the sides of the bra – when you take a look at, it you will see the loops)
- nonwoven fabrics – they are made directly from fibers; the fibers are layered and then subjected to moisture, heat and pressure, so they join together to form a rigid and tight sheet.
Medical nonwoven fabric, which we have heard a lot about lately, is a kind of fabric made of synthetic fiber – interlining. That’s why we can use these two names interchangeably. So interlining is a nonwoven fabric, just like cotton is a woven fabric. What makes it such a great filter is the method of its production – it is more airtight than, for example, cotton – and that’s why it’s so important to put it in a reusable mask.
What’s interesting, medical nonwoven fabric is currently being sold at most fabric wholesalers, including retailers. We bought our nonwoven fabric there – it has the form of a coupon that you can cut into rectangles needed for the mask. In the photo we tried to show its tight structure:
But remember that although masks can be reusable, the interlining filters are always disposable. Don’t wash them, don’t wear them longer than 2 hours, and once you take them out, don’t slip them in again. Always put them in with clean hands, and when you remove them from the mask – sanitize your hands right away.
And what if we don’t have access to medical interlining? That’s when “homemade” solutions come to the rescue:
2. Vacuum cleaner filter for a face mask
When we published the text How to sew a face mask – step by step DYI instructions, in the comments section there was a discussion about the use of filters cut out from vacuum cleaner bags. In this case, even the doctors took their stand, unanimously emphasizing that nothing stands in the way of using
a professional (and new!) vacuum cleaner filter – and turning it into a reusable face mask filter. This is a much more expensive solution than using even two layers of medical nonwoven fabric, but when you don’t have any interlining at home and have new vacuum cleaner filter bags, you can use them.
How do we make such a filter? In a very simple way. Just take a new vacuum cleaner bag (remember these should be the bags just like those in our picture – regular paper bags that don’t have a soft filter layer will not be helpful here), and then cut it in a way so you can cut out as many rectangles as possible out of it. The rectangles should have the same measurements as the mask pockets – so when it comes to our masks, we cut out a 15 x 16 cm rectangle, because that’s the size of the finished mask pocket.
And what if you don’t have any interlining or vacuum cleaner bags at home, and you need a filter for your face mask? What will be helpful are:
3. Microfiber cloths
You may have heard the opinion of one of the experts on infection prevention who said that microfiber cloths are good materials to use in face masks for extra protection. Most of us have such cloths at home, but not everyone knows that they can be used in this way.
And here we come again with a brief technical description that will let you understand what microfiber is: although it’s a woven fabric, its unique thin fibers make it possible to create a very dense weave. The weave is so tight that it becomes a barrier to water (but lets steam through), which makes it a much better protection than, for example, cotton.
When it comes to microfiber cloths, we do the same as with interlining or vacuum cleaner bags: we cut them into rectangles and put them in the mask pocket. What’s important – microfiber filters can be washed and boiled, so we don’t have to throw them away after one use.
No matter how you make your mask filter, remember to always sanitize your hands. Although we don’t meet people “from the outside”, we sanitize all the counters and flat surfaces twice a day, and we cut and sew reusable face masks and filters wearing… masks.