Filtration performances of non-medical materials as candidates for manufacturing facemasks and respirators

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2020 Aug:229:113582. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2020.113582. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


The recent outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is causing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in different countries around the world. Because the coronavirus can transmit through droplets and aerosols, facemasks and N95 respirators that require complex certification, are urgently needed. Given the situation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that "in settings where facemasks are not available, healthcare personnel might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for the care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort." Although aerosols and droplets can be removed through the fibers of fabrics through a series of filtration mechanisms, their filtration performances have not been evaluated in detail. Moreover, there are a series of non-medical materials available on the market, such as household air filters, coffee filters, and different types of fabrics, which may be useful when facemasks and respirators are not available. In this study, we comprehensively evaluated the overall and size-dependent filtration performances of non-medical materials. The experiments were conducted under different face velocities to study its influence on size-dependent filtration performances. The flow resistance across these filter materials is measured as an indicator of the breathability of the materials. The results illustrate that multiple layers of household air filters are able to achieve similar filtration efficiencies compared to the N95 material without causing a significant increase in flow resistance. Considering that these air filters may shed micrometer fibers during the cutting and folding processes, it is recommended that these filters should be inserted in multiple layers of fabrics when manufacturing facemasks or respirators.

Keywords: Aerosols; Filter materials; Filtration efficiency; Homemade facemasks; Household air filter; Respirators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Filtration / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / prevention & control
  • Masks / standards*
  • Materials Testing
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices / standards*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Textiles / virology
  • United States


  • Aerosols