Face mask and how to make it PROTECTIVE
“Face mask and how to make it PROTECTIVE” article by Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE Eleonora de Gray.
Do we need to wear a face mask?
Who in fashion industry produce protective DIY face masks?
Are there standards for production of protective face masks?
How to make protective face mask yourself
For some time I felt that this is not my place to write about different qualities of fabrics, and specially in relation to the viruses, but after all I work in fashion, and I’m writing the reviews about different industries in fashion, textile industry included. For several weeks I’m observing something what I can only call “total mess” about the face masks, or absence of the face masks for public in United States, in Europe, specially in France. I also observe gigantic efforts of different medical and professionals from different health and textile organizations in USA and Europe trying to deal with it in all sorts of ways.
Let’s summarize them. Professionals do exchanges between each other, providing to each other different parameters about the fabrics which can be used, described in 25 pages on technical language, certifications and so on, then submitting them to the governments, and then to the different producers from all industries, who are capable in short notice to cover local hospitals. It is indeed the first and the most important place to send the surgical masks and protective masks N95. People in hospitals exposed to the coronavirus and should be protected, as they are risking theirs to save ours.
Public in mean while go I’d say wild or simply “bananas”. Some think that they don’t need a mask, as all this virus situation doesn’t really concern them, and a little “flue-like” sickness couldn’t really hurt them, as they are keeping healthy lifestyle and “all good” with personal hygiene. Others making masks from toilet paper or walking around with the girls panties on a head. Absence of the information for public and how to make face mask at home is DRAMATIC.
Do we need to wear a face mask?
So what we know about coronavirus? Almost nothing. Two things we know for sure – it is very contagious and might be deadly. And it is not in another country, or in another city – it is here, on your street, your neighborhood. It is invisible, and you don’t know about it. Even if you already got it, you don’t know about it, and when you do – it is too late. Shielding from the reality is a straight way to the hospital and reanimation room, after that you never know if you can get from there alive. There’s no law, all ages and health states are concerned.
So walking around on sunny day in the park together with your friends and family without mask, without respecting social distance, as if you are in vacations is…. well…. as “bad”, as if you suddenly decided to become a professional killer. You are getting infected and infect everyone close to you, and spread the infection on everything you touch. “Being irresponsible” – we way passed it. Governments are trying to solve massive problems with the masks, gels, medical supplies, and economics. Who said “it’ll never happen to you”? Or “it doesn’t concern you”, or “no one wears it, why should I”?
When the government says that “you don’t need a mask” or ” mask doesn’t really protect you” you really should make an effort to understand what it means. Creating panic to public is not such good idea. When there’s not enough masks even for hospitals, it means there’s not enough masks even for the people who are exposed to the virus. Unfortunately all governments go for “you don’t need a mask” option and “Stay Home” orders. Although just see the statistic numbers Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) of confirmed cases, recoveries and death toll.
Roughly of today China (where it all started) has 83,000 confirmed cases and 3,000 death toll (true or not). They are all wear face masks and keep social distance with respect, and almost didn’t left the houses during “Stay Home” order. And China is a big country. Now USA and Europe: gigantic number of deaths 1/3 from the number of confirmed cases. In USA today 560,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. And it is not only about the president who doesn’t care and let people die, who didn’t tell to people what to do, or organized healthcare. We are all responsible for our lives and safety. And this heavy death toll is mostly because many people don’t really respect the social distance or simple hygiene, as if the worldwide situation doesn’t really concern them. Medical staff for several weeks are crying out loud on media and asking people to respect social distance, wash hands and stay at home.
Today youtube is getting filled with videos from medical staff – doctors and nurses from all over the world showing how to make face masks at home, which could be useful and protective against coronavirus. Yes, the face masks are problem, we have shortage. But we need them to protect ourselves and protect others.
Still wondering if we need to wear face mask to protect ourselves from being infected with coronavirus and not to infect others? I suggest you to watch this video about Japanese founding. Japanese researchers conducted an experiment with a use of special ‘high-sensitivity’ cameras and laser beams to see the micro-droplets after sneezing, coughing, and even after conversation of infected with coronavirus person, and proved that these micro-droplets are staying in the air for much longer than normal, and specially in closed spaces (offices, public transport, closed supermarkets and stores). And that poses a unique dangerous risk for coronavirus infection. This video passed on all TV channels, including French BFMTV and RTL, and this video can be found on replays on all local TV channels in all countries. And FYI, according to this research social distance should be 6 feet = 2 meters, and not 1 meter like in France and some other European countries has been announced by the authorities.
So the wearing the face masks can’t be emphasized more.
Who in fashion industry produce protective DIY face masks?
So now when the importance of the protective mask for everyone is quiet clear we definitely need to talk about the standards and producers: what materials to use, forms etc, and who produce them to support hospitals and all public. Yes, we have a shortage of the masks in all countries and specially in USA and Europe. So many fashion designers, fashion houses, textile producers started urgent production of the masks and started donating them to the hospitals. Although production of the surgical and N95 masks demands very special requirements, to protect the virus to go trough. So many fashion producers decided to go with materials they have and produce non-surgical gowns and masks for patients in the hospitals.
And still this kind of production demands special requirements. And unfortunately not too many designers are actually know or follow them. I’d like to make a special note here:
ONE LAYER COTTON MASK IS NOT GOOD, NOT GOOD FOR ANYTHING!!!! PLEASE DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME MAKING IT!!! PLEASE DO NOT GIVE FALSE FEELING OF PROTECTION WHEN YOU ARE OFFERING IT TO SOMEONE!!! PLEASE BE RESPONSIBLE!!!
I’d like to mention all fashion designers and fashion houses who are participating in their own ways in this urgency for the masks. There are always unknown heroes, and in this case producers of underwear, who are the first ones started the production in the help to the hospitals, who I probably won’t be able to mention. I checked each and everyone.
In England Burberry repurposing their trench coat factory in Castleford, Yorkshire, to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients in UK hospitals. That’s all about UK.
In Milan, Italy Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana – CAMERAMODA with its Associates created major solidarity project “Italia, we are with you” and open to all brands and associations fighting Covid-19 emergency. Salvatore Ferragamo is one of the supporters of this project. Versace is also actively supports this initiative. Giorgio Armani‘s all factories started production of disposable surgical masks and medical overalls. Ermanno Scervino also started production of medical masks. Fendi supported Region Lombardia and donated masks to Region Toscana. Kering (Gucci) apart from numerous donations focused now on 3d printers producing different medical supplies. Moncler gave 10 million euros for construction of the hospital in Milan and 400 intensive care units (production of masks is included). Zegna Group converted a part of its production facilities in Italy and Switzerland to the manufacturing of masks, that will provide critical supplies to both Zegna’s employees and to the wider needs in these countries. Zegna Group has also made a direct financial contribution to provide several hospitals with ventilators. Prada factory in Montone, Italy, which remained open for the purpose of production of non-surgical masks to be delivered to healthcare personnel in Italy. Calzedonia is making its textile factories and company resources available to convert its production into masks and hospital gowns. They plan to produce 10,000 masks and donate to the hospitals.
In New York, USA initiatives are multiplying by the minute. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo asked America’s design houses to help. Christian Cowan answered to Governor that he stands by and ready to make much needed hospital gowns and masks. Carolina Herrera has opened a line of production to manufacture simple cotton masks for the food and health industries (1 layer masks, without checking possible fabrics and how useful these masks would be). Christian Siriano with all his kindness also answered to the call of Governor of New York and started to produce in his atelier 1000 masks a day (1 layer masks BUT with microfiber non-woven textile, which is useful, as this fabric is used in production of N95 masks). They are all colorful, and he produced already more than 10 000 and donated to the hospitals in New York. He made sure that all the standards and requirements for protection are met. Michael Kors the brand, along with personal contributions from founder Michael Kors and CEO John Idol, donated $2 million towards two of NYC’s largest hospital systems—NYU Langone Health and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Ralph Lauren has partnered with CFDA (The Council of Fashion Designers of America) and donated 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns that follow FDA-required standards to the hospitals in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina. For last two weeks transformed part of his supply chain to manufacture machine-washable masks and isolation gowns with several of factory partners in US. Prabal Gurung is following this initiative and ready to produce the masks according to FDA-required standards. Tory Burch is donating needed materials for masks and hospital gowns in partnership with Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which services six New York hospitals. They are producing fabric masks as recommended by the CDC. Vera Wang also plans to do the production of the masks, following FDA-required standards.
In Paris, France Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode FHCM apart from the announce that Menswear and Haute Couture fashion weeks which are planned to be in July 2020 are cancelled didn’t announce or take any initiative in fight coronavirus. So French fashion houses and Haute Couture fashion designers are staying save at home in their own “ousters”. Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin supports (published on their facebook page) an announce of Noyoco a fashion brand together with 70 manufacturers (Le Slip Français, Petit Bateau, Lacoste, and others) who’s asking for donations to produce the masks. All together with 70 manufacturers (so many) they proudly announced that already they produced during last 4 weeks 10,000 3-layered cotton masks type FFP2, not suitable for protection, or anything, as cotton alone can’t filter even dust (and we don’t talk about the virus). I was just wondering how New York designer Christian Siriano alone, without 70 manufacturers just in his atelier managed for the last 3 weeks to produce 10,000 masks and gave them to hospitals, without making long speeches, and 70 French manufacturers couldn’t? In addition of course president of Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin proposed to talk on the phone to all designers in distress. I suppose that would be “shrinking” psychological experience if they will be able to get him on a phone, as many calls and emails apparently not answered. Chanel, apart from donation to the hospital foundations, has also donated 50,000 masks to hospital staff and is now mobilizing its manufacturers to make new masks, which are in the process of being approved, as the masks they produced are simple cotton masks type FFP2, not suitable for protection, or anything. Oh yes, and few French fashion brands donating 15% of their profit from online sales to different hospital foundations.
The one unknown to big public French hero is worth mentioning EMINENCE – manufacturer of underwear in France. And by the way this company is the one who’s actually producing high quality underwear for famous “Le Slip Français“, for which by the way CEO of this slip brand is constantly receiving various and diverse medals. Eminence almost from the start transformed it’s manufacture to produce protective face masks for hospitals and French army. They are the one unknown hero, who’s in first line with the hospitals fighting with their fine quality for the health of the first in line. 50,000 masks recently produced only for French army needs. Here are some funny drawings Eminence posted about themselves:
And another hero worth mentioning is Les Tissages de Charlieu, who are generally producing women clothing, men clothing, furnishing and aeronautics. Today they are weekly producing 1 million masks which are destined for French public, and soon will be distributed in Paris.
That’s all about French fashion brands. They called “French luxury fashion brands”, they are talking and talking, and the presidents of the fashion federations giving to themselves the medals for that. Yes, well… being generous in French fashion industry indeed is a luxury in our days. Perhaps it is a time to rethink should we buy something from them or not.
In addition I should mention several brands who decided to participate in fight against coronavirus and produce the masks and gowns. Swedish brand H&M started to produce personal protective equipment, masks, gloves and gowns, to donate them to hospitals and healthcare personnel. German brand Hugo Boss reorganized their workshops, conference rooms and annexes of its headquarters in Germany to equip them with sewing machines. Protective gowns and masks are donated to the hospitals. Spanish brand Mango committed to providing 2 million masks to help protect healthcare workers in hospitals in Spain.
Are there standards for production of protective face masks?
Yes, there are standards, and it is very important to follow them. The standards are very strict, so the tiny virus can’t go trough. That is important to understand and specially when we all start to make masks ourselves. And it explains why 1 layer of cotton mask – doesn’t do anything, doesn’t serve to anything, and basically only give false feeling of protection. Let’s start with description of the materials from which surgical masks and N95 made of:
Surgical masks are made from “melt-blown, non-woven fabric”. They have a 3-layer structure comprising materials like:
Waterproof non-woven layer (front)
Microfiber melt-blown non-woven fabric as filter (middle) – VERY IMPORTANT
Ordinary non-woven fabric (back)
“Melt-blown” fabrics are not the woven or knitted structures in, like t-shirts and jeans for example, they are more like paper-mache. The complex layering and overlapping of these thin plastic filaments creates a thicket-like maze that can trap the airborne particles. The thin plastic filaments in disposable protective face masks are a polymer called polypropylene. Polypropylene has two great properties for repelling viruses: it is negatively charged, and it is water-repellent. Now, viruses need water to remain viable, and are also negatively charged. And…. negative repels negative. Negatively-charged polypropylene molecule will repel the negatively-charged virus, and because polypropylene also repels water, the virus is denied the moisture it needs to be viable. Ta-da!!!
Three separate types of polypropylene negatively-charged fabrics in the surgical face mask: a breathable type for next to mouth, a microfiber filtering type in the middle (filter), and a barrier type on the side facing the world.
N95 medical mask is almost the same as surgical mask but has more layers and fit tightly to the face. But the layers and principals are the same. Polyester also repels water, and is also negatively charged – just not as negative as polypropylene. That is why 1 layer of cotton, which has huge holes in relation to the size of virus, is useless. This kind of mask simply let virus go trough the cotton without any problem, as there’s no mask at all.
And now for the tricky part – the fabrics. There are all kinds of different fabrics, knits, cottons, polyesters, microfibers. What to choose? There are 2 organizations I know who provided all manufacturers and fashion designers with requirements of the fabrics for the masks for hospitals and for public. In USA all standards certified by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In France all standards certified by Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR). Today they have million downloads from all over Europe standards guides to manufacturers and generally to everyone. Both these associations are on the same page.
AFNOR offers fabric guide to all public, which describes the quality of many fabrics which we can find and use. Do not hesitate – USE IT, CONSIDER IT AS ULTIMATE GUIDE !!! Quality of every fabric is described according to how airborne particles (virus included) can go trough or not, what fabric can be used as a barrier or filter. Today French government engaged several textile manufactures to produce protective masks for public according to AFNOR guide.
So let’s summer up and go according to AFNOR guide. The protective mask we can produce ourselves should contain several layers. Cotton can be used for front and back. And the most important middle layer is….
Microfiber Non-Woven Fabric as filter in face mask is THE SECRET WEAPON AGAINST VIRUS.
In another words the protective mask’s secret weapon lies in the middle layer. We can find this fabric in any supermarket. These fabrics we use for the napkins, for cleaning window and glasses “non-woven cloth”. It is very important to know that most air filtration are made of non-woven microfibers. Non-woven fabric is a fabric-like material made from staple fibre (short) and long fibres (continuous long), bonded together by chemical, mechanical, heat or solvent treatment. The term is used in the textile manufacturing industry to denote fabrics, such as felt, for example, which are neither woven nor knitted.
Why we use this microfiber non-woven fabrics for cleaning? Simply because microfiber textiles designed for cleaning on a microscopic scale. Why? Because they negatively-charged, and therefore this fabric keeps all dust and microbes on them. According to tests using microfiber materials to clean a surface leads to reducing the number of bacteria by 99%, whereas a conventional cleaning material reduces this number only by 33%.
So when it comes to the protective mask it is a vital importance to use this microfiber non-woven fabric as a filter. The one we can buy on the supermarkets for cleaning is close enough to the microfiber fabric used for medical masks. Another trick worth mentioning. As I already mentioned this microfiber fabric is negatively-charged, the cotton on another hand is positively-charged, as it made with natural materials.
And guess what happens when negatively-charged and positively-charged materials are interacting with each other when they put together in the mask? They are creating a electromagnetic field, which is for certain stops virus for getting to you. The virus particles glues to the microfiber filter and stays there. This is the secret of the filter.
So to simplify the protective face mask you are going to make yourself should have 3 layers. 2 cotton layers and in the middle as filter microfiber non-woven fabric.
How to make protective face mask yourself
I have a family. And the most important to me is to protect my family from any harm. It is very personal. I studied professional guides, I read the articles about medical care supplies and what they made of, articles about physics, viruses, and summarized gathered information for you, as I believe it is a vital important for all of us. And I think we’ll be using masks until the end of this year, and maybe even next one, so it is kind of an important knowledge.
I’m going to share how I did protective face masks for my family. I’m going to give my personal experience for people, who are like me have no sewing machine, and who’s sewing skills are limited to fixing the buttons and mending the socks. So if you have already idea of the design or know how to sew, you can stop reading here. Just remember if you choose thin microfiber non-woven material like table napkin for example, the mask can’t be washed and can’t be reused. And another if you can’t find non-woven microfiber material buy woven microfiber material. It won’t be that effective, but it’ll still be protective, as this material will still be negatively-charged and will create electromagnetic field when interacting with cotton. Also don’t buy non-woven materials where are some products in them, or made of some glass particles like many bags for vacuum cleaners. The best choice would be fabrics for cleaning windows. Fleece (it’s also non-woven polyester) will do too BUT is much less effective, as it not that strong, so negative field won’t be that powerful, and as a result electromagnetic field will be not that strong.
Let’s say non-woven microfiber cloth as filter will give 80-90% of protection, woven microfiber cloth will give 70% of protection, fleece will give 60% of protection.
So now to the chase. If I managed to make protective reusable masks for all my family without knowing how to design or measure, or serious sewing skills, so can you. And please don’t go easy way and buy mask online. Not one online seller can be trusted. You don’t know if the all requirements has been respected. You buy at your own risk.
What I need to make the face mask effective? I need cotton fabric, I need microfiber non-woven cloth, and I need something what could serve as elastic cord to hold it. And with this I went to the open supermarket. I live in Paris, and Monoprix is a best choice where I could find all what I need for the mask. First of all without sewing skills there’s only one choice of the cotton – the cotton panties. Only in Monoprix (in France) you can still buy this kind of items. You can get pack of 4 from bio cotton. Another advantage cotton classic panties could be kind of cute, big choice of colors and prints, resemble face shape and could be folded and make layers. I went for Monoprix brand. Second – microfiber cloth. I got two kinds: one – non-woven microfiber for cleaning windows, and another – very thin non-woven paper-like table towel (I’ll use it for summer think masks). Third – a cord. I didn’t find any elastic, so I bought several long large shoe laces. For 1 mask I need only 1 lace.
Next – sewing. Cotton panties have several advantages: they are already sewed so you just have to adjust them, they have elastics so it fits better to the face, and when you fold them you can have 4 layers of cotton, and in a middle you can put you microfiber cloth for filter, and you can easily attach shoe lace. Pretty neat, hah?
Ta-da!!! Perfect fit! And it looks nice. A bit of a shooting is in order. I hope this information helped. Stay Save!
For more better performance and more sewing experience I give couple of images from AFNOR.
Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE