3 ways to make your mask more effective

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials have encouraged the public to wash their hands, remain a minimum of six feet apart from one another and wear a mask.

But wearing a mask can only go so far in protecting you and others if it’s not worn correctly.

“Wearing a mask over your mouth but not your nose is akin to holding the seat belt in your hand but not clicking it,” Mark Rupp, chief of the infectious diseases division at the University of Nebraska Medical Center told the Washington Post.

You don’t want your mask so lose that you have to keep pulling it up over your nose to adjust it. There are also some tweaks you can make to ensure it fits well and protects you and those around you.

NPR has a list of hacks to ensure your mask does its job. Here are a few.

Choose the right type of cloth mask

Reusable cloth face masks have been one of the main go-to’s amid the pandemic, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that medical-grade masks should be reserved for health care professionals.

But not all cloth masks are created equally.

According to Cambridge, Massachusetts medical clinic MIT Medical, filtering experiments show that tightly woven, 100% cotton fabrics perform better than most synthetic materials. It also noted that another study found that a high-thread-count cotton fabric vastly outperformed a quilter’s cotton with a moderate-thread-count when filtering particles in a variety of sizes.

Make sure your mask has a tight fit

You don’t want to feel pain or struggle to breathe, but when you wear a face mask it shouldn’t fit loosely. This can prove tricky with surgical masks. A study published in December in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that modifying a surgical mask to fit more snuggly boosted its filtration efficacy from 38.5% to as much as 80.2%.

You can adjust your surgical mask by tying the ear loops and knotting it, with the knot tied as close to the mask as possible before adjusting the nose bridge and tucking the edges in. Another method is to fasten the ear loops with a 3D printed ear guard or using a claw-type hair clip about an inch in size.

Use a filter

If you haven’t been doing this already, this could be a good step to take.

With cloth masks that have a space for a filter, Virginia Tech researcher Linsey Marr, who studies airborne virus transmission, suggested to NPR that you use a surgical face mask as the filter. You could also insert a carbon filter in the pocket — Marr noted a PM2.5 carbon filter will do, just be sure that it’s flexible.