Every hospital I know of has a serious shortage of masks, not just N95 masks, but even just OR masks. The CDC just recommended a bandana if you don't have a mask.

I was wondering if people can make facemasks which are better at filtering air than OR masks.

My kids (health care providers) are not being given N95 masks unless there is a dire need (e.g. to intubate patients). Even OR mask usage is being unreasonably restricted.

I do some sewing, and I was wondering what I can use to make launderable facemasks. I was thinking of a fabric sandwich, better face fitting than OR masks, in which some filter could be inserted into a clean envelope. The metal nose "mold" could be removed, cleaned, and reinserted into a slot for that purpose.

The problem is the filter.

Would a high MERV home VAC filter be better than an OR mask? The filter could be taken apart and the fabric cut to size to slip into the fabric sandwich.

I did read that in the Pacific Northwest, a hospital asked for community volunteers to sew facemasks but the products they provided were medical grade material that is not available commercially.

I was going to use cotton for the envelope, but would that retain too much moisture? I also have a polyester/spandex knit (used in leggings, athletic sportswear, etc.) in abundance.


  • @GrahamChiu - You beat me to it, and with good info. I'm not going to use paper towels, though - even toilet tissue is less porous than paper towels. Jersey is usually cotton, and a moist mask may be worse than a dry one. Also the use of air filter fabric still stands. So... may be a partial dupe. Mar 21, 2020 at 2:35
  • Welcome back. Our other mod doesn't seem to be active in this topic so good to have an old mod back. I'm spending hours trying to upskill in an area completely outside my usual domain. The link I provide in the answer addresses moist cotton and says it makes it no worse. Mar 21, 2020 at 2:37
  • @GrahamChiu - I read all your links and, much to my relief, saw that moisture doesn't matter. Great to read those links; I have a better idea now of what I'm getting myself into. Mar 21, 2020 at 3:03
  • Either of you guys mind if I close this as a duplicate? I would merge the two but there are no answers to this one to merge yet. I don't want to see two separate threads on the same subject diverging. @GrahamChiu
    – Carey Gregory
    Mar 21, 2020 at 4:10
  • I think it's probably more productive to edit the community wiki at the linked page. There is still a lot dynamic here of course, and probably solid evidence is too far in the future to be of use...
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 21, 2020 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


enter image description hereI thought this was my invention. Then I‘ve found out that this idea came up already around the swine flu:


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