Can you use HANDKERCHIEF as a MASK? Can you use BANDANA as a MASK?

CLOTH MASKS can be as effective as surgical/N95 mask. But CAN YOU USE HANDKERCHIEF or BANDANA as a mask?
CLOTH MASKS are highly effective as mask. But some people tend to take it a lot further and make the mistake of using handkerchieves and bandanas as mask!! 
These cloth materials fail to provide enough filtration and fitting required for protection!!
Lets’s see where and why they fail to work as masks.
Can you use HANDKERCHIEF as a MASK? Can you use BANDANA as a MASK?
CLOTH MASKS provide a very safe and cheap alternative for protection provided by surgical masks. The best part about cloth masks is that they can be home made and come with variety of designs and colours. Plus they are easy to make and hence can be used to cope up with the difference in mask demand and supply in the market.


For a cloth mask to be effective, you must make sure of following points-

  • The density of thread used in the cloth play an important role in their efficacy of filteration.
  • Combination of atleast 3 DIFFERENT cloth materials together in mask increases the filtration efficacy of a mask.

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MASKS are just like seive.

The less the size of pores in the seive, More is the filtering capacity of mask
N95 MASK is the most effective mask. Its name means it can block at least 95% of tiny particles – 0.3 microns.

HANDKERCHIEVES usually have a bigger pore size and less thread count. Folding it, will make it two layers but this will be ineffective as discussed earlier. Only a combination of 2 more different types of materials combined, can provide the required protection.

BANDANAS are usually made up of single thin cloth. The pore size of the material is large, sometimes so large that you can even blow air past that cloth. Which itself makes it useless as a mask!

Can you use HANDKERCHIEF as a MASK? Can you use BANDANA as a MASK?

Yes, there are a few bandanas in the market which provide a thick cloth material, but the process of wearing and removing them might not be so safe

While removing you might expose your eyes to the virus and bacteria present on the exterior surface of mask!

CDC has given various ways on how to make your own cloth mask.

Check out the proper ways to wear a mask-

HANDKERCHIEVES & BANDANAS fail to provide a proper fitting around our face. 

You might have experienced or seen how HANDKERCHIEVES tied around your face come down easily and has to be set again and again!! Even BANDANAS tend to fall down repeatedly when you speak or open your mouth.

For a safe mask usage- mask should not be touched and should cover your nose and mouth without much moving.
A loosely fitted mask which falls again and again below your nose is not a properly fit mask!!


HANDKERCHIEVES/ BANDANAS fail to meet the required conditions to function as a proper mask!!

and hence should not be used as mask or a replacement to N95/ surgical or proper cloth mask!
Can you use HANDKERCHIEF as a MASK? Can you use BANDANA as a MASK?

That’s all for this topic !!

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  1. CDC –
  4. CDC –
  5. Efficacy and Use of Cloth Masks: A Scoping REVIEW by Mehr Jain et al. Cureus. 2020.
  6. Effectiveness of Cloth Masks for Protection Against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus by Abrar A Chughtai et al. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020 Oct.
  7. Cloth face masks to prevent Covid-19 and other respiratory infections [Article in Spanish, Portuguese, En] by Magda Milleyde de Sousa Lima et al. Rev Lat Am Enfermagem. 2020.
  8. Ability of fabric face mask materials to filter ultrafine particles at coughing velocity by Eugenia O’Kelly et al. BMJ Open. 2020.
  9. Viral Filtration Efficiency of Fabric Masks Compared with Surgical and N95 Masks by Harriet Whiley et al. Pathogens. 2020.

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