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Everything You Need to Know to Create a DIY Face Mask

In this uncertain time, the World Health Organization and CDC are recommending that if you must go outdoors, you should wear a face covering. Since most medical masks are unavailable to the general public and reserved for doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel that require them during this time, making a homemade face mask is rising in popularity.

You don’t have to be talented at sewing to create a DIY face mask. Some of these don’t require the use of a sewing machine at all. Here are a few different versions of how to make a face mask so you can do so affordably and at your specific skill level. 

Fabric face masks 

Simple design

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If you have a sewing machine or you can easily use a needle and thread, you may want to create a fabric face mask DIY for you and your family. To make things easier during this time, some craft stores, such as JoAnn’s, are even offering free face mask kits. This kit consists of necessary supplies such as fabric and elastic. 

To make a simple face mask, cut the fabric of your choice into two rectangles that each measure 15 by 25 centimeters, or 2 by 6 inches. It’s recommended to use 100% cotton and avoid thick fabrics like velvet. However, it’s okay to use a T-shirt or some other type of lightweight fabric in a pinch, such as a pillow case. 

Pro tip: Measure the fabric on the face of whoever will be wearing it before you sew. Make sure the mask covers the top of the nose down to the bottom of the chin. Kids will require a smaller mask, and some adults may require a larger design. 

Then, you’ll need to put the fabric pieces on top of each other and make sure the outside of the fabric is facing out so it can be seen. Fold over the horizontal edges of the fabric to measure roughly ¼-inch. Now, stitch these folds into place.

Next, fold the vertical edges about ½-inch over and stitch these folds. If you have a safety or straight pin on hand, use one of these to thread your elastic or ribbon through the holes you have just created. In a pinch, you can use a pencil for this.

Now that you have the elastic in place, knot it so it doesn’t slide out of the fabric. Test it to make sure it stays put. This is likely the simplest way to sew a face mask. 

Simple design with nose wire

Some people are making a face mask with nose wire. This ensures a better fit since you can bend the wire to keep your mask from sliding down. 

How do you do this and what type of wire do you use? You can use any type of aluminum wire. Something to use that you may already have on hand is a pipe cleaner! 

Simply stitch the pipe cleaner into the opening of one of the horizontal edges. This way, you can bend it into place when you wear the mask. If you don’t have a pipe cleaner, grab a twist tie from bread, a piece of florist’s wire, wired craft ribbon, or a bit of jewelry wire. 

You may also want the option of adding a filter to your mask. This could make creating your mask a bit more advanced because it will require you to sew a pocket to the back of your mask to insert the filter. 

Simply leave a gap for the filter between the first and second piece of fabric and stitch the edges together. It helps if you have a pattern you can pin into place. If not, do your best to estimate. 

More advanced design

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Are you pretty good with a sewing machine? Then you may want to make more professional-looking masks for friends, family, or to donate to caregivers. These masks have pleats and multiple fabric layers.

  1. Cut one large piece of fabric that measures 16 by 8.5 inches. 
  2. Fold this piece of fabric flat and stitch the top, making sure you leave an opening of 3 inches. This is for the filter. 
  3. Place the fabric to center the seam where the opening is. Iron the seam opening, then fold the excess fabric under and topstitch it to alleviate the possibility of a fray when you add or remove filters. 
  4. Attach elastic with pins. The elastic should hit roughly ¼-inch from each corner of the mask. 
  5. Make sure the elastic sits between the layers of fabric. This should create the beginning of your ear loops. 
  6. Use a 3/8-inch allowance to sew the elastic into place.
  7. Flip the mask over. Use an iron to flatten it out. 
  8. You can now insert your wire into the opening you have left towards the top and stitch around it to hold the wire.
  9. Create three to four ½-inch pleats using a ruler and pins. Pin the pleats into place. 
  10. Sew the pleats into place. 

Bandana face mask

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Let’s say you don’t have a sewing machine and you aren’t skilled in sewing, even with just a needle and thread. Don’t worry, you can easily make a bandana or scarf face mask, and you can pick up a bandana for less than $1.00 at most big-box stores or craft shops. 

Grab a bandana, a coffee filter, and two elastics. These can be hair ties or regular rubber bands. 

Unfold the bandana and place it flat onto a surface. Now, cut the coffee filter in half and place it in the center of the bandana. 

Fold the bandana into thirds so it forms a long strip. Loop each hair tie or rubber band onto the ends of the bandana – about 6 inches apart. Fold the sides over towards the center of the bandana and tuck each side in. Now, you can use the elastic loops to secure the bandana over your ears, covering your nose and mouth. 

If the bandana won’t stay and the sides keep falling, use a safety pin or bobby pin to pin it into place. You can also use a quick sewing stitch to secure the sides. 

T-shirt face mask 

Recycle a T-shirt by turning it into an impromptu DIY face mask. Use scissors to cut an 8-inch portion of fabric from the bottom of the shirt. 

Cut a 7-inch by 6-inch rectangle from one side of the fabric. Leave ¼-inch allowance of fabric space between where you’ve cut and the end of the fabric. 

Cut these portions into long ends that will form ties. Now you can tie the mask around your head and neck to ensure it stays in place. 

You can also use the simple DIY mask method above to sew a T-shirt into a more traditional homemade face mask if you prefer. 

Homemade face mask questions

Since most of us have no experience with face masks, we don’t really know much about caring for them or wearing them. Here are some questions and answers you may be curious about. 

What’s the proper way to wear a face mask?

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If your mask has pleats, make sure the pleats are pointing down. Ensure your mask fully covers your nose, mouth, and chin and stays secure around your ears without falling off or sliding. You should be able to breathe when wearing your mask; make sure it isn’t too tight. You should also put your mask on before you leave the house and remove it once you are home.

How do you care for a face mask?

You can hand wash a face mask in soap or detergent and hot water and air-dry it, or you can wash it like you’d wash other cotton garments in the washing machine and dry it hot. 

What if your eyeglasses get fogged up when you’re wearing a mask?

A common complaint among glasses-wearers is glasses getting cloudy due to breath condensation when wearing a mask. A simple DIY solution to that is either washing your glasses in soap and water, toothpaste, or shaving cream. Any of these substances leaves a film on your glasses that keeps them from fogging up. 

Should you wear a mask when you exercise?

According to the CDC, it’s safe to wear a mask when you are outdoors exercising. 

When should you wear a mask at home?

It’s not necessary to wear your DIY mask inside your home unless you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you’re caring for others who have tested positive or who have symptoms. 

How often should you wash your mask?

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washing clean fabric mask hanging dry disinfect for wearing reuse

Infectious disease experts at Columbia University say you should wash your mask after each use and think of your mask “like underwear.” After one wear, it’s considered dirty. Also, it’s unsanitary to toss your mask into your handbag or backpack and put it back on later. Once you remove it, it’s contaminated and requires washing before you wear it again. 

How many filters should you use? 

One filter is typically fine. More than one may make it difficult to breathe, says the CDC

Should you have more than one mask?

If you are going to work or caring for others during this time, it can be helpful to have more than one mask at the ready. This means you can easily wear one while you are washing another one. 

Does wearing a mask prevent you from catching coronavirus?

The CDC says that no, wearing a mask is not guaranteed prevention. However, it can block out particles from sneezing or coughing that may have traveled otherwise. Because of this, masks may help slow the spread of the virus. It’s also a good way to keep you from spreading germs if you have been infected. It also provides some people with peace of mind as well as a quick way to let others know you are taking the virus seriously and would prefer they keep their distance. 

How do you remove your mask safely?

Once you are ready to take your mask off, remove it from the ear loops. Try not to touch the outer portion of the mask. Don’t touch your face while you are taking it off.

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