Cloth masks can be as effective as surgical masks against Covid-19, new study reports

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  • Cloth face masks offer the same protection against Covid-19 as surgical masks
  • Authors recommend that governments promote the use of cloth masks
  • Cloth masks are cost-effective and environmentally friendly

Three-layered cloth masks can be as effective as surgical masks to reduce the transmission of Covid-19.

The research paper published by Physics of Fluids assessed how liquid droplets are captured and filtered out by cloth masks compared to surgical masks.

How the study was conducted 

The scientists created a model to calculate the physics of filtration. They worked out how effectively fabrics are expected to filter particles compared to surgical masks.

They assessed the fibre density of the material in the inter-yarn pores of the face mask where most of the air flows through.

Researchers then tested how liquid droplets are captured and filtered out by cloth masks. They then looked at how three-layered cloth masks can be constructed with filtration performance similar to surgical masks.

Cloth masks just as good as surgical masks

The study's main finding shows that three-layered cotton face masks offer protection against Covid-19 similar to that provided by surgical masks. They also found that the quality of protection offered by both masks depends on the quality of the seal and fit.

The study authors say that rather than promoting the use of medical-grade protective gear, policymakers could pursue a strategy of improving the quality of cloth masks worn in community settings.

Cloth masks are not only cost-effective but also a way to reduce environmental waste.

"Reusable cloth masks thus present an environmentally friendly alternative to surgical masks so long as the face seal is adequate to minimise leakage." the paper states.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here

READ| Should masks be worn outdoors? Experts weigh in

READ| High-filtration masks only work when they fit – so we created a new way to test if they do

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