Home Health News Coronavirus face mask: How to make a covering at home using cloth or a bandana – CNET

Coronavirus face mask: How to make a covering at home using cloth or a bandana – CNET

17 min read



There are plenty of resources to help you make a face mask at home.

SummerDance/iStock/Touchups by Sarah Tew/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Homemade masks and face coverings are starting to become the new normal when you go out in public — from masks with elastic straps to bandana masks with hair ties being worn around the face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendation is for people to voluntarily wear cloth face coverings in public, in places where the risk of transmitting the coronavirus from person to person is higher. We understand you must have questions, so we’re breaking down how this came to be and what you need to know about making, wearing, buying and donating masks.

Let’s briefly start with how homemade face masks became so huge, and why. Even before the CDC’s new recommendation, there’s been a growing grassroots trend of making face masks at home out of common materials such as cotton fabric, elastic and sometimes a filter material. If you’re considering making your own face mask for personal use, we’d like to provide some helpful resources and information before you begin. 

The main issue at hand is the severe shortage of N95 masks, which help protect medical professionals like doctors and nurses from acquiring the coronavirus. Another type of medical-grade mask, surgical masks — which aren’t proven to effectively block out the tiniest particles that can transmit the respiratory virus — are also in short supply. Stores such as Amazon and Target have stopped selling N95 masks to the public in response to the shortage. 

Read more: Where to find and buy a face mask

That’s where homemade masks come in. Although they may not be able to block out every particle, they can help in some circumstances (more below). 

Homemade masks come in a variety of patterns and styles, so you’ll want to know the different options available to you — and some hospitals recommend certain designs over others. We’ll also explain the materials you need to make a mask, where to buy premade masks and where to donate extra masks you make. 

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Remember that there’s no strong evidence that homemade masks and face coverings can keep you from acquiring the coronavirus, but we do lay out some potential benefits below to wearing something on your face when you leave the house

It’s important to remember that homemade and hand-sewn face masks should be used in combination with appropriate social distancing on walks and in stores, and that thorough hand-washing is still the most advocated medical advice for healthy people to avoid acquiring the virus.


One hand-sewn face mask pattern.


Face mask vs. face covering: What’s the difference?

The CDC stresses the use of “face coverings” in its recommendation, not necessarily “face masks.” So what’s the difference? A face covering can be any cloth that covers the nose and mouth, including a scarf or bandana wrapped around the face.

A face mask refers to a more specific shape that usually involves material that’s more fitted to the nose, mouth and skull, as through the use of ear straps.

It’s possible that “face covering” is used to differentiate coverings from surgical and N95 respirator masks that are so critically low in hospitals in New York and the rest of the country.

Here’s what the CDC says: “Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”

How homemade face masks can help

Homemade face mask patterns were available online before the coronavirus pandemic began. Most of them are intended to block out large particles such as dust; air pollution from cars, factories or ash; and allergens such as pollen. 

Non-N95 face masks or coverings may not be able to block the smallest particles, but there are some benefits to wearing one, in addition to following other precautions:

  • May block large particles ejected from sneezing and coughing
  • Might help protect others from your sneezes and coughs if you acquired the virus but are otherwise asymptomatic and in public
  • Could encourage more mindful behavior, including avoiding touching one’s mouth, nose and eyes
  • Peace of mind

Where can I buy face masks if I don’t make my own?

We compiled an even broader list for you on where and how to get non-medical face masks here, and you can also check the stores below (note that stock goes quickly).

We recommend washing any face masks you buy to sterilize them before use.

Where to find face mask patterns to make yourself

When you’re searching for patterns, look for one that goes above the nose and under the chin for maximum coverage. It should ideally fit snugly around your face. Sites such as Joann, a fabric and craft store, and Pinterest have patterns you can make, with how-to guides included.

Some patterns show a folded design. Others are shaped more like N95 or surgical masks.

If you’re volunteering to make face masks for a health care center or hospital that has requested them (more below), visit the hospital’s website — some point to patterns they prefer for you to use.


You can drop off face masks to Joann.


Materials you’ll need to make a face mask at home

To start a DIY face mask, you’ll want these supplies on hand: 

  • Cotton fabric 
  • Elastic
  • A sewing kit or sewing machine
  • A nonporous yet breathable material to go between the fabric (this may be detailed in a pattern)
  • Some designs call for filter material, which is added in an effort to block smaller particles

After you’re finished making the mask, it doesn’t hurt to sterilize it by throwing it in the washing machine or boiling it in water. Then let it air dry in an area with good airflow or that the sun hits, like in front of a window.

No-sew options if you can’t sew

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to sewing, there’s a no-sew face mask option. Instead of sewing the fabric together, you can use fabric glue and an iron. The iron is used to fuse the fabric and glue together. You’ll also need to use the iron to create pleats in the fabric for a thicker mask.

If you don’t have any of those materials, you can use a scarf and a couple of hair ties or rubber bands to quickly make a face covering — again, this is intended for personal use.

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What to do if your ears get raw

If the elastic straps start to rub your ears painfully, you can make a headband with buttons. In this case, the elastic straps would go around the buttons, rather than your ears, making it potentially more comfortable to wear.

You can also use an S ring hook to attach the straps — take the straps and place them around each U of the ring. When you’re ready to wear the mask, the S ring should be located on the back of your head. This can also help the mask fit better around your face since the ring would help pull the straps snug.

Where you can donate the masks you make

If you’re looking to donate homemade face masks, there are multiple options, including Joann and hospitals and organizations on this list. Right now, Joann is giving away free kits to those who would like to help by making masks at home to donate. You can pick them up at a Joann location near you.

You can also search the internet for local face mask donations near you. Make sure that you find out how these groups prefer to receive your face masks, and maintain social distancing and smart practices while you drop them off. 

Are there places that require you to wear a mask?

While it’s highly recommended by the CDC for people to wear face coverings in public, it’s still optional. However, some cities are mandating that its residents wear masks when they go out in public. Laredo, Texas, is fining its residents $1,000 if they aren’t wearing face masks in public. Guthrie, Oklahoma, has made it mandatory to wear cloth masks within city limits. Even the Pentagon has issued a mandate for everyone at the Defense Department facilities to cover their faces. 

To see if your city has issued a mandate, you can check with your local Chamber of Commerce or the Town Hall. 

To help you further cope with coronavirus in your area, here are the new CDC guidelines and everything to know about homemade face masks, which face masks can help protect you from the coronavirus and how to help kill the virus in your home and car after you’ve gone outside.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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