Performance of Fabrics for Home-Made Masks Against the Spread of Respiratory Infections Through Droplets: A Quantitative Mechanistic Study

Onur Aydin, Bashar Emon, Shyuan Cheng, Liu Hong, Leonardo Patricio Chamorro Chavez, M Taher A Saif

Research output: Working paper


Respiratory infections may spread through droplets, Respiratory infections may spread through droplets and aerosols released by infected individuals coughing, sneezing, or speaking. In the case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), spread can occur from symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic persons. Given the limited supply of professional face masks and respirators, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended home-made cloth face coverings for use by the general public in areas of significant community-based transmission. There is, however, little information on the effectiveness of cloth face coverings in reducing droplet dissemination. Here, we ascertained the performance of 11 household fabrics at blocking high-velocity droplets, using a commercial medical mask as a benchmark. We also assessed their breathability (air permeability), texture, fiber composition, and water absorption properties. We found that droplet blocking efficiency anti-correlates with breathability; less breathable fabrics being more effective in blocking. However, materials with high breathability are desirable for comfort and to reduce airflow through gaps between the mask and face. Our measurements indicate that 2 or 3 layers of highly permeable fabric, such as T-shirt cloth, may block droplets with an efficacy similar to that of medical masks, while still maintaining comparable breathability. Overall, our study suggests that cloth face coverings, especially with multiple layers, may help reduce droplet transmission of respiratory infections. Furthermore, face coverings made from biodegradable fabrics such as cotton allow washing and reusing, and can help reduce the adverse environmental effects of widespread use of commercial disposable and non-biodegradable facemasks.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherCold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Number of pages26
StateIn preparation - Jul 8 2020

Publication series



  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • Novel coronavirus
  • 2019-nCoV
  • Pandemic
  • cloth face covering
  • face mask
  • respiratory droplets
  • droplet blocking
  • breathability

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Performance of Fabrics for Home-Made Masks Against the Spread of Respiratory Infections Through Droplets: A Quantitative Mechanistic Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this