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This easy face mask hack adds an extra layer of protection

Homemade face mask
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you, like many people, are wearing a face mask in public, this easy homemade mask hack can increase its ability in filtering out small particles in the air. All you need is pantyhose or nylon stockings. 

With N95 masks and medical-grade masks  in short supply and required for healthcare workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a recommendation that Americans wear cloth face coverings in public. Many people are learning how to make face masks at home or searching for where to buy face masks online. 

Now, a study at Northeastern University has found a way to make those homemade cloth masks even more effective against small air particles, like this that may carry COVID-19. 

Researchers have found that adding an outer layer made from nylon stockings creates a tighter seal and, in some cases, helps the homemade mask match or exceed the effectiveness of medical-grade surgical masks.

The study has not yet been peer-reviewed, but has been posted on the university's website and the scientific pre-print site medRxiv in the interest of sharing information quickly. 

The researchers measured the various masks' ability to block out particles ranging from 20 nanometers to 1,000 nanometers in diameter (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is approximately 60 to 140 nanometers). 

To the various masks, researchers added a nylon stocker overlay, made by cutting a ring of material, about 8 to 10 inches tall, from one leg on a pair of pantyhose. The ring was then placed over the head and pulled down on top of the mask, creating a tight fit to the face. That tight fit forces particles that might have gone around the loose edges of the mask and been inhaled to instead go through the mask and be filtered out.

Face mask with pantyhose layer

(Image credit: Northeastern University)

Adding the pantyhose ring improved the effectiveness of cloth masks anywhere from 15% to 50%.

The stocking layer even improved the performance of the 3M surgical mask. According to the study, it went from blocking out 75% of particles to 90%. That's nearly as effective as an N95 respirator, which blocks out 95% of particles.