The Ultimate Guide To Cloth Face Masks In South Africa.

The use of cloth face masks to prevent the spread of respiratory disease is in no way unique to the current Coronavirus epidemic. The use of these masks can be found throughout history. From Scarlet Fever in the twentieth century to the TB outbreak during the 1930s.

It comes as no surprise then that the CDC and the Department Of Health have ruled for them. Just like before we can rely on these types of face masks to limit the spread of the disease. Although, they cannot stop airborne particles as N95 masks can. They can help the transfer of body fluid and hand-to-mouth transfer if worn and cleaned properly

In this post, you will find everything you need to know about material masks. From where to find them to how to make your own.

What is the difference between cloth face masks and other kinds of face masks?

We all want to give our family the best protection. But It’s important to understand that some masks should be reserved for those on the front line. The medical staff and volunteers working with those infected. 

Cloth Face Masks:

Cloth or material face masks are hand-made masks. Depending on the type of material used these masks are more durable and reusable than other types. 

How do material masks differ from other masks:

  • They are customizable for a proper fit.
  • These masks are more accessible during the lockdown. They can be home-made or ordered online.
  • More comfortable to wear because of how the material that they are made from.

Cloth Face Masks With Filters:

A non-peer reviewed
study by assistant professors of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University, discovered that wearing stockings over cloth masks can increase their preventative properties to that of the N95 masks. That is a “removal efficiency of 75%”!

Medical Face Masks – Surgical Masks:

If you have ever been to a hospital, then you will know what a surgical face mask looks like. Unlike cloth face masks, surgical masks are designed to be disposable. The downside to this is that they cannot be reused as much as cloth masks. 

How do medical masks differ from other masks:

  • If the masks have a nose wire and are worn over the chin. Then it has a particle removal efficiency of 75%. 
  • Can be uncomfortable if you are not used to this type of mask. 
  • Can break or tear quite easy.
  • If worn with the additional stocking they can be as effective as N95 masks.
  • These masks are less than cloth masks.

Particulate respirator type N95:

The name N95 comes from the masks’ ability to filter out 95% of particles from the air. They are also the only masks that have been approved by the FDA. 

How do medical masks differ from other masks:

  • Reserved for medical staff and first responders to ensure supply.
  • Made from a solid structure of “electrostatic non-woven polypropylene fibre”.
  • This is a tight-fitting mask (In contrast with the loose fitted medical mask).
  • Has an optional breathing valve to reduce resistance when exhaling.

Where can I buy face masks in South Africa right now?

  1. Pharmacies and supermarkets: You will be able to find masks at places like Dis-chem and other pharmacies. 
  2. Online-stores: from Facebook marketplace to online stores. Search for “face masks near me” or “cloth face masks near me” on a search engine for a list of options.  
  3. E-commerce: online retail websites like Takealot and Bidorbuy. 

How to make a face mask at home?

If you have time at home and the right material, there is no reason why you can’t save some money and make your own. There are two options for making your own face mask at home. You can either sew your own mask or you can make a mask with no sewing needed. 


What do you need to sew a face masks?:

  • Cotton or cotton/polyester blend material.
  • A pair of scissors.
  • Sewing machine; alternatively you can also hand stitch the clothing together.
  • Needle.
  • Thread. 
  • Pins. 
  • Iron and board or flat area. 
  • Elastic bands (That will go around your ears).

Alternative face mask options:

If you do not have the time or skills to make a mask there are a few other options.

  1. Make a face mask from an old t-shirt. 
  2. Cut a mask from other clothing like socks or sweatpants to make a DIY version. 
  3. Use a buff as a face mask. 
  4. Use a handkerchief and rubber bands.