Here’s How a Baby Wipe Could Be the Key to Making Your Mask More Effective
Parents, don’t toss those packages of dried-out baby wipes.
Even though baby wipes are designed to clean up messes during diaper changes, ask any mom and she will tell you they are multitasking miracle sheets. They save the day, whether you’re cleaning off playground equipment or dusting inside your minivan—and if you say you haven’t used a baby wipe to take off your makeup, we don’t believe you. So, it’s no surprise that scientists have found yet another way to put those baby wipes to use. If you have a package of baby wipes that have dried up, don’t toss them out because they could be the key to building a better mask.
According to a study, researchers out of the University of British Columbia found that a combination of materials can be used to make a mask that is as effective as a commercial non-surgical mask at stopping particles, and almost as breathable.
For their study, researchers tested multiple mask styles and 41 different fabrics to see which was the most effective at blocking droplets. They found that masks consisting of two layers of low thread count quilting cotton with dried three-ply baby wipes as a filter were very effective at stopping droplets from spreading. See, we told you those baby wipes are pretty amazing.
"Baby wipes are typically made of spunlace and spunbond polypropylene—similar to the types of polypropylene found in medical masks and N95 respirators," explained Jane Wang, PhD, a clinical professor who participated in the study. "They are breathable and trap particles efficiently. They're biocompatible, containing minimal preservatives and chemicals that may otherwise cause irritation or breathing problems."
Researchers say the masks made with baby wipes filtered out up to 80% of 3-micron particles, and more than 90% of 10-micron particles. This is important because the COVID-19 virus is only around 0.1 micron, but it is always attached to something larger: droplets produced by breathing, talking, and coughing. So, the baby wipe is able to effectively filter out larger particles.
While N95 masks are still in short supply, many have taken the advice to double mask to prevent the spread of Covid. However, researchers note that the fit of the mask (N95, cloth, or even a DIY mask) is extremely important and that a good seal around the mask is what you need to look for.
Dr. Steven Rogak, who participated in the study said the highest leak rates are around the nose, chin, and cheeks. He added that pleated-style masks tend to leak the most. Dr. Rogak explained, “Even an N95 mask is going to take in large, massive droplets with lots of viruses if it does not seal against the face. A well-fitted, well-designed cloth mask with a baby-wipe filter will be more effective at filtering 5 or 10-micron particles than a poorly fitted N95 mask.”
If you are looking to make your own mask or just add an additional protective layer to one you already have, it’s great to know you have the supplies in your diaper bag.