Home Science This Gross Experiment Shows How Even Homemade Masks Can Stop Germs Spreading

This Gross Experiment Shows How Even Homemade Masks Can Stop Germs Spreading

There’s no denying we’re in a weird, unprecedented and rapidly changing time – both for science and more generally for society.

And when it comes to how to protect yourself, those you care for, and others around you, there have been many changes to best-practice health advice throughout this pandemic.

Only a few months ago, WHO was discouraging mask use, but they’ve now changed their position in the face of increasing evidence that masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In fact, there’s now a very large amount of evidence that wearing a mask can stop the spread of droplets and aerosols from your face holes, and therefore the virus, from reaching others around you.  

But despite all that evidence, there’s nothing quite like a DIY experiment to really bring the point home, and the AsapSCIENCE guys have delivered with the video below, which sums up perfectly why we should all be wearing masks in public areas.

It even answers the slightly hairy question of whether homemade masks are effective (spoiler: they are).

In their latest video, Mitch Moffit and Greg Brown have replicated an experiment that went viral online and put Moffit’s mum’s homemade two-layer mask to the test by coughing, (fake) sneezing, talking, and singing onto agar plates both with a mask and without a mask. The results are… convincing.

As the AsapSCIENCE guys explain in the video, no, viruses aren’t going to show up on an agar plate – they’re looking only at bacteria. But the experiment is far from useless.

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Instead, it’s a great way to show how bacteria and virus laden droplets and aerosols spread. No virus (even SARS-CoV-2) is an island, and so in order to spread, the pathogen needs to hitch a ride on our mouth and nose juices. Gross, I know.

The AsapSCIENCE team also replicate their results with a secondary scientific experiment run in a lab using surgical masks. But in both the more controlled version and their DIY version, the masks did their jobs and kept those juices off the plates.

They’re not the only ones showing the benefits of masks.

As you can see in the video below, filmed by a different group of scientists, even homemade single-layer masks are incredibly helpful at stopping the spread of particles while you go about every day activities.

Two-layer masks are better than one, and a three-layer surgical mask is a gatekeeper of particle transmission – letting basically no saliva droplets through. 

While mask wearing is definitely an important way to limit the spread of COVID-19, it is not foolproof. The safest thing to do is to socially distance and stay home where possible.

We’ll get through this together. Just keep your mouth juices to yourself.

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