How to make a face mask or covering at home to help prevent coronavirus spread

Homemade masks and face masks will be everywhere - from masks with elastic straps to bandanas that are worn around the face when in public places. And with the new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people to voluntarily wear face cloths in public, where the risk of coronavirus transmission from person to person is higher. We understand you must have questions, such as how this happened and what you need to know about making, wearing, buying and donating masks.

Let's start with how homemade face masks become so big, and why. Before the change to the CDC's official advice - previously, he said the general public did not need to wear face masks - there was a growing desire for grassroots to make facial masks at home from common materials such as cotton cloth, elastic and sometimes filter material. If you want to make your own face mask for personal use, we want to provide some useful 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. 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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.



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