DOST to make 500,000 washable, reusable face masks

DOST to produce 500,000 face masks.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and partners plan to start producing 500,000 reusable face masks, and donate the first batch to the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF), a staff said on Friday.

“With the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, we are laying out the logistics and securing necessary permits to move and produce these masks. We aim to get going by next week and release the first batch,” Evangeline Manalang, DOST-Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) promotions head, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The plan is to donate the masks through the IATF and/or DOH which are in better position to identify who needs the mask the most, she added.

Manalang said PTRI Director Celia Elumba already approved the funding for the mask production, adding that PHP15 million from the government and PHP3 million from DOST’s private partners were allotted for this.

With the rising concerns about protection from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and the shortage of masks available in the market, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña announced on his Facebook page last Wednesday that the PTRI has partnered with the local government of Taytay, Rizal and some private firms to produce 500,000 reusable masks using the PTRI-developed technology.

This mask is washable for up to 50 times, according to his post.

“We are finishing the masks with a protective treatment that will repel liquid. There are tons of cloth masks, but unless they are repellent, they are just good for street pollution, or maybe ashfall,” Elumba told the PNA in a text message.

She added that her research team is doing many tests to make sure that the mask, which will be called “REwear Face Mask Made Smart” delivers the idea.

Manalang then explained that since “REwear” is water-repellent, this would prevent liquid droplets from coughing and sneezing that potentially carry the virus and bacteria, from penetrating the mask.

“These masks will use a textile finishing technology based on the linkage on cellulosic textile substrate that will make it repellent to liquids. This finishing technology is the subject of a pending IP application,” Manalang said.

Durability testing was done for PTRI to determine that the mask could be washed for up to 50 times.

PTRI developed the water-repellant finishing technology in 2012, and its scale up production testing was done in 2016.

The DOST-attached agency collaborated with local retailer-manufacturer, Power Fashion, Inc., dyeing and finishing mill, Saffron Philippines, Inc., and the Reliance Producers Cooperative to produce the 500,000 masks.

“REwear” will be made of regular fabrics. The outer layer of the mask will use the coating technology.

The technology would not coat the fabric, but would coat the fibers instead so that the fabric is still breathable, according to Manalang.

“With the mask’s rewearability, this would practically mean 25 million masks in the system, hopefully freeing up much needed surgical and N95 masks for medical frontliners,” Manalang said. (PNA)

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