Corona DYI: Make Your Own Masks, Wipes and More
The windstorm of panic shopping that accompanied the onset of COVID-19 continues to leave market shelves swept clear of all basic resources needed to fight this pandemic.
Disinfectants? Gone. Masks? Scarce. Hand sanitizer? Don’t even ask.
However, in the case of most of these basic items, there are replacements that you can buy or even DIY (do-it-yourself) substitutes you can make right at home. Let’s look at some simple, yet handy workarounds in the time of shortage.
DIY Hand Sanitizer
This is regarded as the principal species in the present wave of shelf extinctions, with an abundance of basic supplies of Dettol and similar products disappearing rapidly.
Even without hand sanitizers, doctors stress on the fact that a highly reliable substitute measure that works just as well, is to wash your hands with soap and water.
Caption: A person washing his hands using soap thoroughly
Rinsing and washing with soap eliminates the virus mechanically, as the lipophilic (combining) end of the soap compound, which is attracted to solvents like oils and fats, attaches to and damages the organic layer of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Cheap soap works, expensive soap works, and antibacterial brands don’t matter as COVID-19 isn’t caused by bacteria in the first place.
“Any soap will work for this virus,” emphasizes Dr. Koushik, a medicine resident at Johns Hopkins Bayview in the US. However, the key is washing for sufficient time and thoroughly.
“From the data generated observing enveloped viruses [like SARS-2], it is recommended that a person should practice hand-washing for at-least 30 seconds,” says Dr Carl Fictenbaum, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati.
However, what if you’re not close to a sink?
This is where hand sanitizers come into the picture. Commercial hand sanitizers are little more than an ordinary amount of alcohol and a sufficient glob of an emollient (moisturizer) to prevent the skin from drying out.
The ratio is generally 30% to 40% moisturizer, something like glycerine or aloe and 60% to 70% alcohol. All you need to do is stir the two together thoroughly and vigorously and funnel them into an appropriate bottle like a pump based one.
For most people that works, but not all. There is a chunk of our population that might have eczema and thus for them, a lesser content of alcohol should be used—perhaps 40-50%. Doctors say that it might not be as effective but are better than nothing.
DIY Sanitizing Wipes
The best workarounds for sanitizing wipes is to use bleach as a base. Bleach is highly effective against germs and viruses, although doctors stress that it needs to be highly diluted, else the fumes can damage the lungs and the chemical itself can damage its surfaces.
Caption: A box of wipes on a white table
Take five tablespoons of bleach, and mix it with 4 liters of water, and use paper towels in place of paper to dip in it, and use as wipes.
The crucial part is to make sure that once you apply it to the body, you should leave the solution intact for a long enough time.
Doctors suggested that the contact time should be at least one minute and should be air-dried.
DIY Disinfectant Sprays
If you are addicted to brands like Dettol or Lysol or other big names, it’s time to rethink and experiment. The EPA lists an astounding 350 products that can be effective in killing the COVID-19 virus.
However, before you buy any disinfectant, check the label on the bottle for an EPA registration number, and check if it’s listed on the agency’s website.
Caption: A disinfectant eliminating the virus
If you are not able to buy any of the products, you can disinfect any surface from the virus by using a solution of household water and chlorine bleach.
In case you have bleach, you can use it to make your solution and dispense it in a spray bottle or any bottle of your choice.
Several sources give various water-to-bleach ratios for use with common bleach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “bleach will be effective against Covid 19” in a 1:48 solution that is ⅓ cup of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons. Clorox, a disinfectant company recommends a somewhat stronger 1:32 ratio that is ½ cup per gallon or 2 tablespoons.
DIY Face Masks
In India, there is a mass mentality to mask-wearing: Not only is it a legal obligation now but people genuinely don’t like stepping out without having one on.
However, science recommends otherwise. As of now, most people know that the N95 masks, the form-fitting mask that offers the most protection, are in awfully short supply all over the world. Health care personnel should have the first priority on these masks.
Caption: A person sewing their own mask
For the rest of us, a surgical mask is the way to go. And, it’s essential too, to help stop the spread of the virus.
A surgical mask can also provide some minimal protection against the virus, chiefly for those of us who have poor immunity, pregnant women and the elderly.
However, as masks are in limited supply, some individuals are making their own. We utilize everything from several layers of tightly sewn cotton with elastic loops for the ears to bandanas.
However, their effectiveness is limited by their empty spaces (porosity) in between layers. The virus is extremely small and these homemade masks are not as tightly fit as the N95 mask.
For those already infected by the virus, a homemade mask is a usually faulty choice.
Cut horizontally the bottom 8 to 9 inches of a shirt or t-shirt, so that you have a piece of material for your mask.
Place the material out flat on your table, and fold it at an angle of 90 degrees so that the bottom hem of the t-shirt (maybe double stitched) is now facing right or left.
Next, fold it from the top to the middle, and then from the bottom to the middle. Repeat this step once again.
Use a hair tie or rubber band to make a loop around each end (right and left). Leaving a few inches of material, so that it looks like a candy wrapper on each side.
Now, fold the remaining fabric over the band, with both sides joining in the middle, thus adding a layer to the mask.
Finally, put a band over each of your ears, and make sure that the band fits tightly to your face. The pressure on your face should keep the rubber bands and material intact.
In this pandemic, a lot is going on. It’s scary and stressful at the same time. It can be tough to know what’s going on or what you should do.
This is a time of exceptional innovation.
If you have more doubts or questions, and in fact who doesn’t right now, we have a whole bunch of thoughtful, thoroughly researched articles about the ongoing novel coronavirus.
Stay safe wherever you are, and please, if you can, stay home.