Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: would they protect in an influenza pandemic?

Anna Davies*, Katy-Anne Thompson, Karthika Giri, George Kafatos, Jimmy Walker, Allan Bennett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

233 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined homemade masks as an alternative to commercial face masks. Several household materials were evaluated for the capacity to block bacterial and viral aerosols. Twenty-one healthy volunteers made their own face masks from cotton t-shirts; the masks were then tested for fit. The number of microorganisms isolated from coughs of healthy volunteers wearing their homemade mask, a surgical mask, or no mask was compared using several air-sampling techniques. The median-fit factor of the homemade masks was one-half that of the surgical masks. Both masks significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers, although the surgical mask was 3 times more effective in blocking transmission than the homemade mask. Our findings suggest that a homemade mask should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals, but it would be better than no protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-418
Number of pages6
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


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