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Should You Use a MERV Rated HVAC Filter To Design Your Face Mask?

If you want to discover something new, Google it.

People have increasingly taken that advice to heart as they find new ways to live in a stay-in-place world. For the past couple of weeks, searching for DIY patterns for face masks has skyrocketed.

You’ll find advice on how to make a CDC-approved face mask.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams posted a video on how to make a face mask out of something as simple as a t-shirt.

But the one that’s caught our eye is the stories about people incorporating MERV rated HVAC filters into the fabric of their face mask design. Does it work? Is it safe?

MERV ratings are designed to tell you, the consumer, how powerful the HVAC filter is. You’ll find MERV ratings from 1 to 16; the higher the rating, the more particulates it can separate out and trap within the filter.

But here’s the thing you need to be aware of. HVAC filters are designed to protect furnace components from harmful particles that may enter through the air supply. The MERV rated HVAC filter is between the furnace and the ventilation system, cleaning up the air supply that moves between.

It’s designed to protect the system - not the air supply you take in as you breathe.

Should You Use a MERV Rated HVAC Filter To Design Your Face MaskYou’ll find furnace filters made from fiberglass, polyester, and cotton. It goes without saying, that fiberglass isn’t safe to breathe in. The higher the rating, the better the chance the filter is made from polyester and cotton, but again, the manufacturer never designed the filter as a mask, so it was never tested for how it performs next to your face.

On one manufacturer’s site, Filtrete specifically says:

“Our filters are designed to be used in HVAC systems, and the filter media has not been tested to be used as a face mask for respiratory protection. Altering any of our 3M Filtrete™ Air Filters is not recommended or supported by 3M or the Filtrete™ Brand.”

The takeaway from that should be: Don’t use this product for face mask production. They may use glues, binders, or other substances that may not be safe for human consumption.

Take the coronavirus seriously.

Follow the CDC’s advice of washing hands, avoid close contact with others, cover your mouth with a cloth whenever other people are around, and clean and disinfect your area regularly.

But leave your MERV rated HVAC filters where they belong - tucked away in your HVAC system.

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