Scientists test which face covering style best protects against the coronavirus

ABC News Corona Virus Health and Science

Researchers say coverings and social distancing help prevent spread.

Face coverings for COVID-19 protection come in all shapes, sizes, materials and colors.

From bandanas and DIY masks made from handkerchiefs to custom-made cotton masks with your favorite sports team emboldened on the front, health experts say those coverings are crucial for preventing the spread of coronavirus.

But not all face coverings are created equal, according to research from Florida Atlantic University.

Scientists put four common variations of face coverings — a bandana, a handkerchief mask, an over-the-counter cone style mask and a two-layer quilting cotton mask — under tests to see which ones blocked droplets. The quilting cotton masks turned out to be the covering that blocked the most droplets, according to the study.

“We are basically looking at two main characteristics for the masks. The first was the type of fabric that we used and the second was the construction of the mask,” Sid Verma, an assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University who was part of the study, told “Good Morning America.”

Researchers used a mannequin that simulated coughs and sneezes by spraying particles into the air from its mouth. The scientists said particles traveled eight feet from the mannequin’s mouth when it had no face covering.

When the mannequin’s face was covered by a bandana, droplets traveled more than three feet, according to the study. The handkerchief covering made droplets travel more than a foot away from the mannequin’s mouth while the cone-shaped mask allowed particles to travel eight inches away from the mouth, researchers said.

The quilting cotton mask allowed droplets to travel two-and-a-half inches from the mannequin’s mouth, the study said.

“Even the bandana fabric will be able to stop the largest droplet sizes,” Verma said. “So if you use a better fabric, it will be more effective.”

Several cities across the country have mandated facial coverings for anyone traveling outside of their household as the number of coronavirus cases has risen in several parts of the country.

Verma warned that people should also adhere to social distancing in addition to face coverings to protect themselves thoroughly from the virus.

What to know about Coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the US and Worldwide: Coronavirus map
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