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How to Make No-Sew Face Masks from T-shirts

COVID-19 is a contagious virus that we are still trying to completely understand. What started in Wuhan, China, only a few months ago quickly spread to the rest of the world, and this pandemic has now infected millions and claimed lives across the globe. 

With a vaccine still several months off, we need to rely on other measures to prevent continued spread during this pandemic. Social distancing is one of the most important of these measures, but you can also protect yourself to some extent with a homemade face covering. However, to use this method of prevention effectively, you need to understand the disease, itself.

How does COVID-19 spread?

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COVID-19 spreads when the infected individual coughs or sneezes. The water droplets generated when the individual exhales or sneezes are enough to infect you if they come into contact. You can also get infected if you touch anything that was in contact with an infected individual and then touch parts of your face. 

To keep this disease at bay we should maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people and wash our hands frequently. But how do we ensure that we don’t come into contact with infected droplets? It’s pretty simple – you wear a face mask. 

Face masks ensure that infected droplets don’t touch your face. According to the CDC, wearing a face mask prevents spreading the disease. You could infect another individual even if you don’t feel sick, since symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear. 

Although face masks cannot be a substitute for social distancing, they do help in many ways. As soon as the importance of face masks became obvious, there was a scarcity of them in stores. Even healthcare workers suffered a shortage of masks, forcing them in some facilities to reuse masks. Although this can be done safely in theory, it requires a high degree of consistency that is difficult to maintain under the current, demanding circumstances. 

But there’s some good news. Not only can you sew and make some awesome face masks, but you can also create masks even if you’re clueless about sewing! There are several ways to DIY no-sew face masks from t-shirts without compromising on quality.

What face masks are the best?

No-sew face masks are easy to make and perfect for those who need to travel and work every day. Anyone can make them and they only take a few minutes. Also, you don’t need to leave the house for supplies – you probably have them at home! But before we get into it, here are a few guidelines on face masks:

  • Wear something that will stay in place, without the need for you to touch them throughout the day.
  • Your mask should allow you to breathe freely.
  • There shouldn’t be any gaps between the face and the mask.
  • Reusable face masks should be washed every day – no exceptions. Even if the mask seems clean, you cannot wear it again without washing it.

Wearing cloth face masks

There are many types of masks available; DIY, surgical, N95-N100, and many more. N95 masks have received a lot of attention as they are believed to not only prevent infected wearers from spreading their germs, but also to prevent healthy wearers from contracting germs from others.

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While N95 masks are good, it doesn’t mean that other masks won’t protect you. Even the CDC says that masks made out of cloth are good. In fact, non-healthcare workers should leave the N95 masks for professional healthcare workers that need them more than the rest of us. They may be surrounded by infected individuals day in and day out, and if they become infected themselves, it’s important to prevent them from passing that infection on to their patients before symptoms arise.

This lines up with the CDC’s warning that people displaying no symptoms can still transmit the disease to others. This is why it’s important to maintain a safe distance from everyone around us – whether they are friends, relatives, acquaintances, or strangers – and use masks whenever possible. You don’t need expensive, fancy masks to get by – simple ones made of cloth will work just fine.

Who can (and should) use face masks?

Just about anyone can use face masks but remember not to use them on infants or children under two. They may panic and are also at a higher risk of suffocation. Additionally, those who have trouble breathing or have an allergy to the material used to make the masks should avoid them.

How do you make face masks?

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So, now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s talk about how to make some no-sew face masks.

1. Bandana face mask

This is one of the easiest no-sew face masks you’ll ever see – there’s nothing much to it. Although it is not an ideal alternative to traditional cloth masks, a snug fit and thickly-woven, but breathable, fabric will still keep you safer than no face covering at all.

  • Find a bandana or handkerchief that fits those requirements and lay it out on a flat surface.
  • Grab the top and bottom edges and fold them toward the center.
  • If you have enough fabric, repeat the folds again so you have a few pleats to cover and fit your face snugly.
  • Take a couple of rubber bands and slip them over each edge.
  • Grab the end at the left and fold it over the rubber band, towards the center. Repeat the same with the edge at the right so they both meet at the center.
  • Lift the mask by the rubber bands and place them over your ears, so that the free ends are pressed against your face.
  • And, voila! You have a no-sew face mask!

2. No-sew face mask with a t-shirt

This one’s very simple. Just about anyone can do this with a pair of scissors and an old t-shirt. (You could use a new t-shirt, of course, but why would you want to?) Choose something that’s big, but clean. Remember to wash it at the end of the day!

  • Now that you have the t-shirt, (safely) grab a pair of scissors.
  • Measure about 20 cm from the bottom and cut a strip of the cloth. You’re now left with the bottom of the t-shirt that’s smooth and fits you well.
  • Measure 2 cm from the top and bottom and cut inwards to about 15 cm as shown in the video.
  • You can discard the remaining piece of cloth – you should be left with a small piece of fabric with two strips. Cut the strips to create loops.
  • The mask is ready! Use the loop at the top to fasten it to the top of your head while the loop at the bottom can be tied to your neck. You can use the remaining t-shirt fabric to repeat the process and make more masks, if you want to.

3. Simple, no-cut t-shirt face mask

Boy, this one’s too easy! If you don’t want to cut your clothes, this one’s just for you. You don’t need anything but a clean t-shirt to make this mask. It doesn’t matter if it’s new or old, but just make sure you wash it before wearing it again. (Yes, no matter what mask you make, it has to be clean.) 

There are several options for making this mask work, so watch to the end to find the one that works best for you!

Adding filters

After making a t-shirt mask, you’ve probably realized that the fabric is too thin to realistically prevent any sort of exposure for long. It’s recommended that you use thick fabric to make the masks, but if you cannot source it, there are ways to tackle this problem. 

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For instance, coffee filters will work as filters for your face! Simply slip the filter inside the folds of the mask and remove it immediately after use (and wash your hands!) before laundering the mask.

If you’re making a bandana mask, slip the filter inside the folds just before wearing it. You can do the same with a t-shirt mask since there are plenty of pleats to slip the filter inside. What happens if the filter somehow falls off? Simply dispose of it and insert another filter or continue just like that sans the filter. The filter is just extra protection, so do not risk touching your mask unless it is absolutely necessary, and once again, wash your hands if you must touch it for any reason.

Speaking of filters, the German company – Melitta – that invented coffee filters made of paper is now producing face masks! Apparently, the filters are not just paper – they are fibers that are generally used to manufacture regular masks, too. The best part is that these filters resemble a face mask and fit perfectly over your face. All you need are two loops at the ends to fasten to both sides of your ears, and you’re done. 

Just like you can use two rubber bands to create a face mask out of a bandana, you can use the same trick here. Or, you can cut two loops and punch two holes at both sides of the filters to create a mask. So, if you have any of those filters lying around at home, remember that you can use them! Just make sure that the filters aren’t just paper or they won’t work as standalone masks. If you don’t own filters made of non-woven fabric, you can still slip them into your no-sew face masks to add an extra layer of protection.

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