While a simple face covering can reduce the spread of coronavirus by blocking outgoing germs from coughs or sneezes of an infected person, experts say there is more variation in how much homemade masks might protect the wearer from incoming germs, depending on the fit and quality of the material used.
Scientists around the country have taken it upon themselves to identify everyday materials that do a better job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored well, as did vacuum cleaner bags, layers of 600-count pillowcases and fabric similar to flannel pajamas. Stacked coffee filters had medium scores. Scarves and bandanna material had the lowest scores, but still captured a small percentage of particles.
If you don’t have any of the materials that were tested, a simple light test can help you decide whether a fabric is a good candidate for a mask.