In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, making face masks has become increasingly important for helping reduce the spread of the virus. The f abric used to make the masks, particularly nonwoven fabric, plays an important role in their effectiveness. Here are tips for finding the perfect nonwoven fabric for your face masks.
Understand The Types of Nonwoven Fabric
Nonwoven fabric is made by bonding or interlocking fibers using chemical, thermal, or mechanical methods rather than weaving or knitting. There are various types of nonwoven fabrics suitable for different purposes and performance needs in face masks:
• Spunbond: Made from continuous filaments formed into a random web. It’s strong, absorbent, and breathable making it a good base material for face mask filters.
• Meltblown: Made from extruding fibers that are randomly deposited and bonded to form a highly porous web. It has the tightest weave and is good at filtering particles, making it ideal for face mask outer layers.
• Airlaid: Produced by dispersing and depositing fibers using an air stream, then binding them. It’s extremely absorbent and soft making it comfortable against skin.
• Spunlace: Created by mechanically entangling fibers using high-pressure water jets. It’s durable, liquid repellent and breathable.
• Composite: Made by combining different kinds of nonwoven webs, like spunbond/meltblown or airlaid/spunbond layers, to achieve specific performance properties.
For comfort, the nonwoven fabric you choose for your face masks should allow adequate breathability. Materials like spunbond or composite spunbond/meltblown nonwovens tend to be the most permeable to air. Avoid heavier nonwovens with tighter weaves that restrict airflow and cause users discomfort from overheating and moisture buildup.
Determine Absorbency Needs
The absorbency of the nonwoven fabric matters depending on your intended use of the face masks. Higher absorbency fabrics like airlaid nonwoven or composite nonwoven with an airlaid layer work well for single-use face masks and procedures involving liquids. Lower absorbency materials like standard spunbond work for everyday use.
Check the fiber content
The fibers used to make nonwoven fabric affect its performance, safety and sustainability. Natural plant-based fibers like cotton, bamboo, hemp and wood allow more breathability but degrade over time. Synthetic fibers like polypropylene and polyester are more durable and retain shape better but may irritate sensitive skin. Consider your needs and priorities when choosing fiber content for your masks.
Measure Filtration Efficiency
The tighter the weave and smaller the pore size of the nonwoven fabric, the better it will filter particles like viruses. Meltblown nonwoven fabric typically provides the highest filtration efficiency followed by spunbond-meltblown composites. Request or test the material’s minimum filtration efficiency (MFE) or particle removal efficiency (PRE) to determine if it meets your needs. For basic face masks, aim for at least 80-90% efficiency.
Check for Electrostatic Charge
Some nonwoven fabrics designed for efficient particle filtration utilize an electrostatic charge. This static electricity traps and captures more fine particles by attracting and binding them to the fibers. If electrostatic charge is important for your face masks nonwoven fabric, request this specification from suppliers.
Determine Liquid Barrier Properties
Nonwoven fabrics vary in their ability to form a barrier against liquid penetration. Some materials are designed specifically for liquid repellency and barrier performance useful for medical and isolation face masks. If liquid resistance is important for your intended use, request data on the material’s hydrostatic pressure and liquid barrier specifications.
Browse Multiple Weight Options
Heavier weight nonwoven fabric with thicker fibers and tighter weave tends to filter particles more efficiently but can be less comfortable and more costly. Lighter weights work for basic everyday applications. Compare options between 20-100 gsm (grams per square meter) to determine the appropriate weight for your use.
Consider Multiple Roll Sizes
Nonwoven fabric for face masks is available in a wide range of roll sizes from narrow widths suitable for making small quantities to extra-wide commercial roll goods. Choose a width based on your production needs while getting the best price per yard. Standard widths range between 15″-60″.