Face-coverings extend life

What’s going on?

The world changed in a few short weeks, we’re all adapting and trying to find a new normal, but more importantly, to protect lives, our own, those of our loved ones, our communities, our nations. For many years, those of us with allergies, asthma, COPD, and other respiratory illnesses, have battled seasonal pollen, dust, mold, and more. Now, it makes more sense than ever to wear a face-covering on a regular basis.

This page exists to help you to understand how face-coverings can help you extend life:

Extend your own life, and extend life to others.

So, here’s where we stand.

Face-coverings are now recommended for everyone

According to the CDC, “…continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States.  We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.  In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

We are going to be wearing face-coverings for a long time

According to Wired, “To overcome the present crisis we must summon more than ingenuity and industry, however. We need solidarity. As we move closer to a phase of the pandemic in which people are allowed to mingle again but there is still no vaccine—and therefore still a chance of new outbreaks—universal masking may become even more imperative. The US desperately needs to revive the ethic embodied by the legions of gauze-wrapped faces in photos from 1918. “You must wear a mask not only to protect yourself, but your children and your neighbor,” the Red Cross implored a century ago. “The man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker.””

People need longer-term, business-casual or fashionable options

As this becomes the new normal, masks will have to work in different settings and people will have more than one facemask not just for safety reasons including rotating masks in order to clean them, but in order to have situation appropriate masks.

A face-covering is a part of personal protection best practices

It’s easy to get overconfident when wearing a face-covering, which can actually lead to being less safe. To get the benefit, each of us must still follow best practices for extending life.

If you decide to use homemade face coverings, public health officials offered caution. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force response coordinator, said masks should be used only as an “additive” to social distancing, not a substitute.

During a news conference Thursday, Birx said people often feel “an artificial sense of protection because they are behind a mask,” adding, “Don’t get a false sense of security.”


Do not be overconfident with a homemade face-covering! It should be a last resort and should be used sparingly. By sparingly, I mean to stay at home as your primary line of defense. Do not leave your home because you are confident in your store-bought mask or your homemade mask.


Face-coverings are for healthy people as well as those already infected

As much as 25% of those infected with Covid-19 show no symptoms but are still contagious, and facemasks lower the risk of spread.

By wearing masks as well, those not infected lower their chances of exposure from both breathing in the virus as well as from touch exposure.

The collective evidence makes a strong case for universal mask wearing during a pandemic. Masks are not a substitute for other interventions; they must always be used in combination with social distancing and hand hygiene. But even during a lockdown, some people need to leave their homes for essential task, such as buying food and medicine. With diseases like Covid-19, many individuals may be infected but asymptomatic, spreading the virus without realizing it. In parallel, some healthy people may not be able to adequately isolate themselves from infected partners, family members, and housemates. Masks could help reduce the spread of disease in all these scenarios. “Masks work in both directions,” virologist Julian Tang explained. “If everybody wears a mask, it’s double protection. Even if a mask is not 100 percent sealed, it is still a significant reduction in risk of transmission.”


The mask protects you, and it protects others from you. 25% of people with coronavirus do not show any symptoms. For the other 75% of cases, symptoms often take more than 5 days to occur and those people are spreading the disease while looking healthy. A mask, when used properly, will keep you from touching your face, mouth, and nose. Goggles or face shields are also recommended. They will reduce the touching of the face, too.


Face-coverings help everyone pull together to fight the threat

Masks further function as an important social signal. In 1919, inspired by America’s use of masks to combat influenza and eager to embrace Western modernity, Japanese health authorities began recommending that people wear masks in crowds, on public transportation, and anywhere that might pose a high risk of infection. “The nation was brought together through the mask,” which provided “a sense of control over the invisible threat of a pandemic,” writes sociologist Mitsutoshi Horii. The 2004 outbreak of avian influenza strengthened the cultural importance of masks in Japan. Habitual mask wearing became a “civic duty,” both to protect others and to take responsibility for oneself.“


In America, we still tend to think of face masks as a defensive shield to ward off illness. This is one reason there has been a run on respirators and hospital-grade masks. People treat it like a space helmet and want the strongest possible protection, doctors be damned.

But that is thinking about it backwards. The point of wearing a mask in public is not to protect yourself, but to protect other people from you. We know that many people who fall ill won’t show symptoms during the time when they are most infectious. Some people may even remain asymptomatic through the whole course of the disease, never knowing they had it.

The safest thing to do is assume you’re sick all the time, and wear the mask.

The job of protecting you, meanwhile, falls to everyone else! That’s why it’s so important that we adopt mask wearing as a social norm. When enough sick people wear masks, even of the most rudimentary kind, it becomes difficult for a disease like coronavirus to spread in the population.


A mask is a visible public signal to strangers that you are trying to protect their health. No other intervention does this. It would be great if we had a soap that turned our hands gold for an hour, so everyone could admire our superb hand-washing technqiue. But all of the behaviors that benefit public health are invisible, with the exception of mask wearing.

If I see you with a mask on, it shows me you care about my health, and vice versa. This dramatically changes what it feels like to be in a public space. Other people no longer feel like an anonymous threat; they are now your teammates in a common struggle.


Universal mask use gives cover to sick people who, for whatever reason, need to be out in the world. If we only ask people to wear a mask when they have symptoms, they might as well put on a flashing neon sign that says INFECTED. Obviously, we want sick people to stay at home, but if they have to go out, they need be able to wear a mask without stigma.


How face-coverings help

Coronavirus is airborne and masks can make the difference

Masks reduce the spread of infectious disease by catching microbes expelled by the wearer and protecting the wearer from microbes in their environment. When we cough, sneeze, talk, or simply breathe we emit a plume of air and droplets, which are largely composed of saliva, mucus, salts, and—if we are infected—potentially dangerous microbes. The smallest of these droplets, sometimes called aerosols, may hover or drift through the air for hours, potentially exposing anyone who enters that airspace. Larger droplets may travel only a few feet—or up to 26 feet if propelled by a sneeze—before falling to the ground or onto another surface, such as someone’s skin or clothes.


Experts say it’s important for people to understand that a simple face covering offers enough protection for someone who is practicing social distancing and has only limited exposure to others during brief time outside for exercise or groceries.


Face-coverings may be more important than testing to control COVID-19’s spread

If test and death rates are correlated, then it is hard to explain why countries with the two highest death rates, Italy and Spain, have per capita testing levels 30 times higher than the country with the lowest death rate, Japan. According to Worldometer, Italy and Spain have performed nearly 11,000 tests per million people while Japan has only performed 310 tests per million. The country with the highest testing rate in Europe, Luxembourg, has performed 9x the number of per capita tests than the US (36k vs. 4k) but has 2x the number of per capita deaths (50 vs. 24).

These comparisons are no fluke. A Pearson’s correlation analysis using data reported on the Worldometer website showed there is NO correlation (Pearson’s correlation coefficient = -0.01) between per capita tests performed and per capita deaths among Western European countries, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and the US. The same analysis found a high correlation (r = 0.77) between testing and cases rates, as one would expect.

What should one make of this?

First, this analysis doesn’t mean testing isn’t important. It simply highlights that more testing may not provide the benefits public health experts are touting.


A face-covering can help by reducing inadvertent face touching

Wearing a mask makes you more aware of each time you start to touch your face

Masks are more than physical armor against disease—they also make us more psychologically resilient. We seem to be hardwired to incessantly touch our faces. In addition to intercepting our fingers, masks can alter our habits, teaching us not to reach for our faces in the first place.


A face-covering primarily protects those around you and they are most effective when everyone wears them

In many Asian countries, everyone is encouraged to wear masks, and the approach is about crowd psychology and protection. If everyone wears a mask, individuals protect each other, reducing overall community transmission. The sick automatically have one on and are also more likely to adhere to keeping their mask on because the stigma of wearing one is removed.


Even homemade or cloth face-coverings are better than no protection

Meanwhile, several studies have tested the performance of masks improvised from household materials. A 2008 paper found that masks made from kitchen towels were about half as protective as surgical masks. For a study published in 2013, scientists compared the filtration efficiency of surgical masks to linen, silk, a scarf, a kitchen towel, a pillowcase, a vacuum cleaner bag, and masks that volunteers made from 100 percent-cotton T-shirts. The surgical mask performed best, followed by the vacuum cleaner bag and kitchen towel, but the latter were too thick and stiff to be worn for long periods of time. The T-shirt masks were comfortable, though, and one-third as effective as the surgical masks. “Our findings suggest that a homemade mask should only be considered as a last resort,” the authors wrote, “but it would be better than no protection.” A 2010 study reached a nearly identical conclusion.“


Face-coverings can help you remember to wash your hands.

If you form an association between handwashing and touching your mask, it becomes harder to forget to wash your hands when you come home and take your mask off.


Face-coverings have limits

The value of a mask plummets to nearly zero when worn incorrectly

Fitting the mask tightly over and around one’s nose, snug to cheeks and chin, capturing as much breath as possible through the mask, and good filters to capture virus particles are all critical.

Fabric face-coverings are not medical equipment, they are not certified to a standard of protection, but they can still make a difference

The CDC is has changed course and recommends everyone wear one:

However, there is increasing evidence of asymptomatic transmission, especially through younger people who have milder cases and don’t know they are sick but are still infectious. Since the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. do say that masks lessen the chances that infected people will infect others, then everyone should use masks. If the public is told that only the sick people are to wear masks, then those who do wear them will be stigmatized and people may well avoid wearing them if it screams “I’m sick.” Further, it’s very difficult to be tested for Covid-19 in the United States. How are people supposed to know for sure when to mask up?


…places like Hong Kong and Taiwan that jumped to action early with social distancing and universal mask wearing have the pandemic under much greater control, despite having significant travel from mainland China. Hong Kong health officials credit universal mask wearing as part of the solution and recommend universal mask wearing.


Many people are working to figure out which fabrics are most effective, but between the fabrics selected for the mask construction and optional insertable filters, a fairly high level of protection can be achieved.

What you must remember

  • If you decide to start wearing a face-covering, you should know that it takes some getting used to. A mask can be hot and uncomfortable and fog your glasses if you wear them. But pulling it up and down defeats the purpose of wearing it.
  • A tight fit is critical to filter the air you breath out
  • Wear your face-covering only when absolutely necessary to minimize contamination
  • Don’t reuse a mask without disinfecting at if at all possible
  • Always remove a face-covering by the ear loops or the tie — never the part that covers your face
  • Wash and dry cloth face-covering regularly. Someone with only one mask can hand wash at night and let it air dry.
  • If a mask gets wet or damp while you are wearing it, it’s less effective.
  • Treat masks as infected after each use

When you get home after an outing, take off your protective gear, and place it carefully in an area far away from your living area. I take mine off in the side yard and leave them there for several days. Preferably in the sun. Take off your shoes outside, then take a hot shower. Masks can be heated in the oven at 160 degrees for 30 minutes to sanitize them. I prefer to leave my masks in the sun for 2 days before I bring them into my house, but I am only leaving my house 1-2 times per month.

If you think your mask is infected it should be discarded or left in sunlight to be disinfected. At this time, cleaning masks is a tricky issue but it is an issue hospitals are looking at. Getting your mask wet will degrade its ability to filter incoming and outgoing air.

In hospitals, masks are generally discarded after each contact with a patient. You should refrain from touching the mask, and put it on by touching only its straps. You should consider your mask contaminated after being in a public area and handle it with great care.


Cleaning your face-covering

  • If you have an InstaPot, you can put your mask(s) inside and run the steam cycle for a quick disinfection
  • Run your masks through your washing machine delicate cycle with soap (cold water is fine, the soap does the work)
  • Heat your mask in the oven at 160 degrees for 30 minutes
  • If you have more time, leave your mask outside in the sunlight for a couple of days

Extend life

What can you do right now to extend life?

Purchase one, make one, or improvise one

Make one one or buy one from us!

Here are some good links for making a facemask yourself:

  1. https://mashable.com/video/cdc-face-mask-how-to/
  2. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3050689/how-make-your-own-mask-hong-kong-scientists
  3. https://mammacandoit.com/products/elastic-free-t-shirt-face-mask-sewing-pattern
  4. https://www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask
  5. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/homemade-masks-coronavirus-do-they-work-how-to-make-them-20200324.html%3FoutputType%3Damp
  6. https://makezine.com/projects/sew-your-own-face-mask-from-scratch/
  7. https://jennifermaker.com/face-mask-patterns-cricut/
  8. https://youtu.be/v8HNYKvlaN8
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmNIOf5ixQ0
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T787NV6FpA
  11. https://youtu.be/q2B7Twkh2SI
  12. https://www.reddit.com/r/LifeProTips/comments/fr84o6/lpt_if_you_are_sewing_reusable_barrier_face_masks/
  13. https://www.etsy.com/listing/785757421/succulents-face-mask-washable-reusable?show_sold_out_detail=1&ref=anchored_listing&frs=1
  14. https://www.instructables.com/id/AB-Mask-for-a-Nurse-by-a-Nurse/?linkId=84592852

The fabrics used can make a major difference

“You have to use relatively high-quality cloth,” Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said.

Face coverings made of fabric, public health experts note, aren’t intended to protect wearers from getting sick, but rather, to prevent them from spreading the virus to others. And the guidance will still exclude using surgical or medical grade masks, which experts say should be reserved for people who are sick and for the health care workers who care for them.

Segal came up with the idea to study which fabrics would work best.

In partnership with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, he tested a variety of cloth materials to see which ones not only allowed for breathability, but also filtered small particles — such as viruses. The research from Wake Forest has not been submitted for publication and has not been peer-reviewed.

The best masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilters cotton” with a thread count of at least 180, and had thicker and tighter weave.

Lesser quality fabrics also worked well, as long as they had an internal layer of flannel.

“You do want to use a woven fabric, like batik,” Segal said, “but you don’t want to use a knit fabric, because the holes between the knit stitches are bigger.”

In other words, if the fabric allows for a substantial amount of light to shine through, it’s probably going to allow tiny viral particles through, as well.


xtdLyfe Bold Life facemasks are made with 3 layers of tightly-woven cotton, or 2 layers of tightly woven cotton and an inner layer of flannel depending on what material we are able to source.

Cotton T-shirts, however, may not be as useful. A 2013 study published in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness compared medical grade surgical masks with homemade facial coverings using plain cotton T-shirts. The surgical masks were found to be three times more effective in blocking small particles than the T-shirts.


Improve effectiveness with an DIY insert

While insertable filters are in short supply, there are other options that can be very effective.

  1. Our recommendation after a lot of testing and research: Blue shop towels. We include 2 squares and a cutting template in every order (as long as we have stock), see https://www.businessinsider.com/homemade-mask-using-hydro-knit-shop-towel-filters-better-2020-4 for an excellent article on this material.
  2. For other options, have a look at these articles:
    1. https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-homemade-mask-material-DIY-face-mask-ppe.html
    2. https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/best-materials-make-diy-face-mask-virus/
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As we add to this page, all articles referenced will be tracked here.