The CDC is now recommending the use of homemade face cloth coverings when people are out and about in areas such as grocery stores and pharmacies, where it may be difficult to avoid others.
These new recommendations stem from the knowledge that the novel coronavirus is capable of infecting people who take a while to develop symptoms, or never develop symptoms at all – but may still be able to spread the virus during that time.
By wearing a simple face covering when out in public, this may help prevent those who have the virus from unknowingly spreading it around in the population.
While these simple face masks are used for helping to reduce the spread from someone who is already infected, these are not meant to protect an uninfected person from getting infected.
These homemade masks are now recommended for the general public, but we still need to reserve the more intense respirators and N95 masks for the medical professionals on the front lines so they can stay safe while treating COVID-19 patients.
And remember, just wearing a homemade face mask does not take the place of performing social distancing, handwashing, and staying at home as much as possible, so use your homemade masks in addition to all other current precautions to do your best to reduce the spread for you and your community.
4 ways to make homemade masks:
Homemade masks should now be used by everyone when you must head out to a public area as an extra precautionary measure.
And luckily, there are a few different ways to fashion a mask using materials that you may already have at home.
Whether you want to go the fancy route and craft a mask with a sewing machine and precise measurements, or just put one together in 30 seconds using a T-shirt – we have you covered.
We recommend that you choose which mask you are making based on the items you already have on hand, to avoid an unnecessary trip out just for mask materials.
1. How to make a cloth face mask with a needle and thread or sewing machine (More complicated):
Fabric (2 rectangles 6” by 10”)
Elastic (2 strips 6” long or string, hair ties, rubber bands, cloth strips)
Needle and thread (or sewing machine)
Step 1: Cut two 10 inch by 6 inch fabric rectangles out of your desired fabric. Stank the two rectangles on top of each other. You will work with the rectangle pieces stacked on top of each other.
Step 2: Fold the top and bottom of both rectangles over together to make about a ¼ inch hem and stitch down with a sewing machine or needle and thread. Then fold over the left and right sides of the fabric rectangles about ½ inch in and sew down. This will make the hole to thread your straps, so be sure to sew far enough in to allow for that gap.
Step 3: Run your elastic through the wide ½ inch hems you just made. You can use a large needle or a bobby pin to help guide it through. Tie the elastic ends so it becomes a loop that fits around your ears. If all you have is string, cut it long enough that you can tie it behind your head.
Step 4: Slide and tuck in the ties on the elastic inside the hem. Then gather the fabric so that the mask fits your face well. Once everything fits well, stitch all four corners where the straps are coming out to secure them in place.
2. How to make a no-sew face mask with a T-shirt only (Less complicated):
3. How to make a no-sew face mask with a bandana and coffee filter (Less complicated):
Bandana (or cloth about the size of a bandana)
2 rubber bands
4. How to make a no-sew face mask with a T-shirt and rubber bands (Less complicated):
2 rubber bands
Watch this 45 second video from the CDC:
Which materials may be better?
Certain materials may be better than others at how well they can protect against small particles.
Choose your materials for your homemade masks based off of the chart below using more protective materials if you have them on hand.
How to make masks to donate:
If you have the extra time to craft face masks for donation to healthcare systems and organizations in need, Joann Fabrics has helped develop a Make To Give Facemask Program.
Basically, Joann Fabrics will give you kits full of all of the materials you need for free to make face masks to donate, as well as supplying detailed face mask making instructions on their website: Here.
The company is offering free curbside, contactless pick-ups to help you maintain a safe distance while getting face mask supplies for donation.
How to properly wear a mask:
If you are going through the effort to make yourself a homemade mask, make sure you follow the following tips to make sure you are wearing the mask properly:
Before putting on the mask, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Put the mask on making sure it covers both your mouth and nose, and adjust the mask to reduce any gaps on the sides, top, and bottom.
Once the mask is on, avoid touching the mask or your face with your hands at all. Fiddling with the mask with dirty hands may risk contamination.
Do not wear homemade masks that are damp or unwashed.
Do not remove the mask while you are out in public.
Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before removing your face mask once at home.
Remove the mask from behind your head or by the ear straps if possible, avoid touching the front of the mask or your face.
Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after removing the mask.
If using a homemade cloth mask, place directly into the washer and wash immediately.
Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after placing the used mask into the washing machine.
How to wash homemade masks:
You may wash homemade masks to reuse them.
Place masks directly into the washing machine once returning home wearing one.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before taking off the mask, and after placing the mask in the washing machine.
You can place the mask into the washing machine directly or into a mesh washing machine bag to help protect the mask.
Wash for the full washing cycle on high heat.
Make sure the mask is fully cleaned and dried before using the mask again.
Homemade face masks are recommended to be used when going out into the public, especially grocery stores and pharmacies, or public areas where it is difficult to avoid contact with others.
These face masks are to be used in addition to other measures such as physical distancing, staying at home as much as possible, washing your hands, and avoiding touching your face. Wearing a facemask is not a replacement for these other protective measures.
Facemasks are helpful to prevent the spread of the virus from those who are not aware that they are infected yet, as the virus may spread without symptoms, or before the symptoms have appeared in a person.
We still need to reserve the professional respirators or N95 masks to be used for our medical professionals to keep them safe while treating patients, but homemade cloth masks are now recommended for the general public.
Make a facemask based on what materials you currently have in your home to avoid extra trips out.
If you have extra time on your hands, you can make extra facemasks for donation to facilities that may need more.
Make sure to wear masks properly, and wash them thoroughly between each use.
We are all in this together, and if everyone does their part by social distancing, following guidelines, and wearing homemade masks if they must go out, we can all help #flattenthecurve.
Disclaimer: This information isn't a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Jill Barat, is a Doctor of Pharmacy with a unique background in specialty pharmacy, innovative compounding products, supplements, and integrative medicine with a passion for helping patients live their best lives.