Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Just the Basics – Cloth Covid Masks

With the “Karens” out in full force “mask shaming” everyone in sight . . . I just have to ask . . .




I suspect the answer is . . . “NO!!  But PUT ON A DAMN MASK OR YOUR GOING TO KILL GRANDMA AND GRANDPA!!!”


Heavy sigh . . . yet, that’s where we are.


I’m not a mask guy.  I will wear them in places I absolutely need to go – church, dentist office, Menards (since we’re having an addition to our home built), a Safeway in Rapids City SD . . . but otherwise, no – I’m not wearing one.  They simply do not offer enough protection to be worth while and, worse, the offer the ILLUSION of protection, so folks get sloppy about basic common sense actions they can take to significantly decrease their chance of getting CoVid-19 or any other virus for that matter.


Of course, the “Karens” jump on my thoughts about the crappy level of protection a simple cloth masks offer – and a deeper dive into that particular topic is the purpose of this post.   Have you looked at your cloth mask?  I mean really, really looked at it.  With the tools you have in your pocket – a flashlight and a phone – you can do a pretty deep dive into your mask’s basic construction.  If nothing else this basic knowledge may help you build a better mask should you truly feel a need to cover your face.  So, let’s take a deeper dive into cloth masks.


This is my mask.  I purchased three of them from a local woman who used a pattern put out by a regional hospital.  It covers well from the bottom of my chin to the bridge of my nose.  And yes, my glasses fog a bit when I breath.  All it all – great coverage and certainly a feeling that I am well protected from all those nasty viruses floating about in the air.  But . . . how much of that coverage of my nose and mouth are real . . . and how much of it is simply a feeling? 

First, let’s start out with what we are trying to stop.  Depending on the source you look at, the size of the CoVid-19 virus varies from around .1 um to .3um.  A “um” is 1/10,000 of a meter and is called a “micron”.  To give some size comparison the typical human hair is around 50 um in diameter.  That means that in the width of a human hair you could fit around 200 - 500 individual viruses.  We’re talking about something profoundly small.


Much is made of N95 masks.  These are masks specifically designed to block 95% of all particles .3 um or larger.  Note, this mask will only block CoVid-19 particles that are leaning towards the large size of their range.  Those leaning towards the small side may well simply pass through even a N95 mask. 


Here is one such example of a N95 mask – a 3M half-face respirator with particulate filters with N95 inserts on each cartridge filter.


So that’s what we’re trying to block . . . something very, very, very tiny  – unimaginably tiny.


What type of protection does cloth offer?  As with most things, it gets complicated.  What type of cloth, what type of yarn, what is the thread count ( the total of threads vertically – the “warp” – and horizontally – the “weft”), is the yarn coated, are multiple threads twisted together to increase the thread count, is it a simple weave or something more complicated.  All of these factors and a few more will play into how effective the mask has the ability to be.


Let’s keep it simple, my mask is a simple weave cotton fabric.  It does contain two colors of dye and has a thread count of approximately 150.  How do I arrive at this figure?  Simple, by observation.  I took the mask and a small flashlight.  Since the pattern on my mask is dark blue polka dots over a lighter blue fabric I focused on a single blue dot.  A measurement of that dot showed that its diameter is .25 inches.  Shining light through the mask and using my cell phone camera on the close-up setting allowed me to take a photo of a single dot at very high resolution.  I then brought that into photoshop, trimmed out the dot yet again to allow simple viewing of the dot.    The result is the image below . . . and now we have something we can work with.


If you pick a center horizontal row and count the warp threads and then the hole (generated by the weft thread) you will get a thread count for the .25” circle of approximately 38 threads.  Multiply that by 4 and you get a thread count of 152.  Using a bit of rounding, I would estimate that the actual thread count for this cloth is then 150 as I stated above.


So now let’s make some observations regarding the cloth under magnification.  The first thing that jumps out at me are . . . HOLES!!!  Lot’s and lots of holes.  How big are they??  Could a virus pass through them??  How can I figure that out???  An estimate is fairly easy . . . you know there are approximately 150 threads per inch.  So is .25 inches that means there are about 38 threads per inch.  Given the hole is approximately the width of a thread . . . the hole is .25 inches/38 . . . or .00658 inches in diameter.  What the heck is that in um???  Google to the rescue . . .

The answer is 167.132 Microns - about three times the diameter of a human hair.


OK, one step deeper.  Let’s go with the really big size of the Covid-19 virus and assume that all viruses we meet as we walk through the world are .3 um in size.  How many can fit through a hole on my little dark blue dot on my mask . . . just one hole . . . on one dot.


The size of the hole would be 27,889 square um.  If we stretch the estimate just a bit and assume each CoVid-19 virus is square . . . then our estimate becomes a bit easier.  Simply divide the size of the hole by the size of the virus . . . 27,889 sq um / .3 sq um . . . and presto . . . 92,963 large CoVid-19 viruses could fit through a SINGLE SOLITARY HOLE . . . on a SINGLE SOLITARY DARK BLUE DOT . . . on my mask.


Let’s assume my estimates are off by a factor of 100 . . . you know, the Dr. Fauchi model . . . that would knock the virus count for a SINGLE SOLITARY HOLE . . . down to just under 1,000 viruses per hole.


So let’s go with that . . .


Look at the mask . . . look at the number of .25” dark blue dots (don’t forget the rest of the mask, but for fun, just look at the dark blue dot).  How many holes in a single dot . . . just a sec, I’ll count them . . . be right back . . . ok, I’m back . . .  200 . . . 200 holes in my .25” dot.  So carrying my Dr. Fauchi – off by a factor of 100 – estimate to it’s final conclusion . . . my .25” dark blue dot will pass 200,000 viruses that are .3um in size. 


Now, take this to the next level and estimate how many viruses can pass through this ENTIRE mask – in either direction.


This . . . this right here is why I say they are ineffective.  Could a small portion of viruses be blocked?  Sure.  Hell, you could wrap your face is window screen material and block a few as well.  But is a cloth mask an effective tool to SAVE YOUR LIFE, AND THOSE OF YOUR LOVED ONES????


No . . . not in a million years.


I did say there are more effective ways to protect yourself.  There are.  Here they are:



If you’re sick . . . STAY HOME!!!

If you’re sick . . . KEEP VISITORS OUT!!!

If you’re sick . . . with the defined symptoms of CoVid-19

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea


If you go out, shopping, traveling . . . WASH YOUR FRICKIN’ HANDS – FREQUENTLY!!!  It has been posited that one of the most common methods of transfer of the virus in via fecal matter.  Think about that . . . did you hit the head while out??  Did you wash your hands THROUGHLY???

This . . . this right here will offer real mitigation to a broad range of viruses floating around out there in addition to CoVid-19.  Remember flu season is right around the corner.  Children are NOT DYING of CoVid-19 . . . but they die by the bucket load of the common flu.


OK, ok, ok . . . but you ARE A TRUE BELIEVER . . . your mask is your friend.  No worries, go for it.  And I mean that genuinely.  If your level of fear is high and a mask makes you feel better – I’m fine with that.  Of course, there are caveats that go along with wearing a mask.


First and foremost – don’t kid yourself.  The protection offered by a cloth mask is MINIMAL!!  Please, don’t treat it like a magic talisman and believe you are FULLY PROTECTED . . . you’re not.  Stop lying to yourself.

Your mask needs to cover your face from the bottom of your chin to the bridge of your nose.

STOP TOUCHING YOUR MASK!!!  Touch it only by the straps/strings/loops that attach it to your face.

DO NOT ADJUST YOUR MASK!!!  Get one that fits, put it in place, leave the damn thing alone.

If you do touch and adjust your mask – assume your hands are now contaminated . . . WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY.

Don’t stick your mask in your pocket, purse, glove box, console . . . or anywhere else unless it is contained in something – say a Ziploc bag.

Have a different mask for every day – and wash your mask weekly in your laundry.


And, if you look at these precautions and say something like . . . “Damn, that’s a lot of work, I’m just going to stick it in my pocket or purse – ta hell with that guy!!


Exactly . . .


As I have said over and over and over . . . a mask is a “Boppy” . . . a pacifier . . . something you stick in a baby’s mouth to make them feel better . . .


So, if you want to feel better and wearing a cloth mask makes you feel better . . . fine.


As for me, walking about during my normal day . . . no . . . I won’t . . .




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