The COVID-19 pandemic is currently causing a severe disruption and shortage in the global supply chain of necessary personal protective equipment (e.g., N95 respirators). The U.S. CDC has recommended use of household cloth by the general public to make cloth face coverings as a method of source control. We evaluated the filtration properties of natural and synthetic materials using a modified procedure for N95 respirator approval. Common fabrics of cotton, polyester, nylon, and silk had filtration efficiency of 5-25%, polypropylene spunbond had filtration efficiency 6-10%, and paper-based products had filtration efficiency of 10-20%. An advantage of polypropylene spunbond is that it can be simply triboelectrically charged to enhance the filtration efficiency (from 6 to >10%) without any increase in pressure (stable overnight and in humid environments). Using the filtration quality factor, fabric microstructure, and charging ability, we are able to provide an assessment of suggested fabric materials for homemade facial coverings.
Keywords: COVID-19; aerosols; cloth filtration efficiency; face masks; facial coverings; triboelectricity.