A study carried out in the United States reveals that cotton face masks are 35% more effective than synthetic ones. By moistening with the breath, they are more effective against the coronavirus by making it difficult for aerosols to escape.
The debate on the effectiveness of cloth masks against coronavirus returns. According to a study carried out in the United States, these cotton protectors are more effective than synthetic masks thanks to the humidity caused by the breath.
Specifically, scientists point out that they are 33% more neutralizing when it comes to letting aerosols out and capturing particles than when they are dry, which makes them the best option to stop COVID-19 infections.
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To carry out the study, the experts investigated the different types of fabrics used to make the face masks and imitated the humidity of the breath in those made of cotton fabric and in synthetic ones.
The former, when slightly moistened, improved their protection efficiency, while the synthetic fabrics showed hardly any “performance changes” in stopping or neutralizing particles.
Cotton Vs Synthetic Fabric
Cotton fabric masks absorb small amounts of water from the wearer’s breath, creating a moist environment inside the mask itself. As the microscopic particles pass through, they also absorb some of that moisture and grow, making it easier for them to become trapped in the mask, NIST explains.
This is because fabrics made of cotton and polyester are some of the ones that performed best, with an average of 70.24% filtration for viruses and 76.60% for bacteria analyzed (similar to the flu virus).
Just the opposite is what happens with those made of synthetic fabric. In these cases, this type of mask does not absorb moisture, reducing its filtration efficiency against the coronavirus.
According to the study, of all the materials tested, the ones that worked best to filter both viruses and bacteria were the fabric used to make vacuum cleaner bags and kitchen towels. Although in those cases, the stiffness and the difficulties that can occur when breathing, make them not the most advisable.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers placed samples in boxes with an air humidity of 99%. Thus, cloth masks would have the same opportunity to become moist by imitating a person’s breath. In a second box they included samples with only 55% humidity.
Once the process was finished, they collected each one and placed them in front of a pipe that emitted air at the same speed that a person does, imitating the exhalation of breath.
The experts measured the amount of particles in the air before and after passing through each fabric, discovering that the filtration efficiency in 9 types of cotton masks increased from 12% to 45%, that is, an average of 33%.
In the case of the 6 types of synthetic fabric tested, including materials such as nylon, polyester and rayon, the results were worse in wet conditions.
In addition, the experts pointed out that hygienic and cotton face masks provide the same filtration efficiency in conditions of high and low humidity.”