Here’s how to make your own masks — and use them correctly

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people wear homemade face coverings when leaving their homes. Photo by Georgia Geen

Georgia Geen, Executive Editor

Until recently, the federal government’s position on the general public wearing masks was simple: Don’t. 

That’s changed. On Friday, President Donald Trump announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending people use homemade cloth face coverings when going out, especially for those who live in areas with high contamination rates. The recommendation comes at the same time as new revelations about the virus: as many as 25% of people infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms, and it could be spread just by talking to an infected person

This doesn’t mean you should try to get your hands on surgical masks or N-95 respirators — those need to be reserved for health care professionals. 

So, unless you’re lucky enough to nab a cloth mask online or already have some, you’re probably going to have to get creative. 

But before you start thinking about how to make your own mask, here’s how to use them correctly and safely:

  • If you use a cloth mask, wash it between every use. A temperature of 133 degrees Fahrenheit is needed to kill the virus — meaning you should boil your mask or wash it in hot water and dry it on high heat after wearing it. 
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on your mask. 
  • Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth. 
  • Avoid touching the outside of the mask when you’re wearing it. If you do, wash your hands afterward. 
  • Keep your mask dry. If it gets wet, it will be much less effective.
  • Don’t take your mask off to eat or drink, then put it back on. Taking a mask on and off without sterilizing it increases contamination. Wait until you get home to eat or drink.
  • Take off the mask by the elastic or ties, not by pulling on the front of the mask, which may be contaminated. 
How to use a mask safely
If you use a cloth mask, wash it between every use. A temperature of 133 degrees Fahrenheit is needed to kill the virus — meaning you should boil your mask or wash it in hot water and dry it on high heat after wearing it. Illustration by Karly Andersen
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If you’re wondering about gloves: According to the World Health Organization, wearing gloves in public is not an effective way to avoid contracting COVID-19. You could still touch a contaminated surface, then touch your face, infecting yourself. Gloves have to be changed regularly, and wearing them can provide a false sense of safety when regular hand washing is more effective for the average person.

What materials you can use to make your own masks

First off, remember that homemade masks will never be as effective as surgical masks, but they do offer some protection. Of course, wearing a mask doesn’t mean you get to stop social distancing. 

According to a study by SmartAirFilters.com, dish towels are 73% effective at stopping virus particles smaller than those of COVID-19; cotton blend T-shirts are 70% effective; antimicrobial pillowcases are 68% effective, while their normal counterparts clock in at 57%; and 100% cotton T-shirts are 51% effective. If you want to walk around with a vacuum cleaner bag on your face, you’re in luck, because those are 86% effective. 

How to make your own no-sew face mask
To make your homemade mask, you'll need a clean bandana or other square fabric and two hair ties or rubber bands. If you don't have those, you can use shoelaces instead. Photo by Georgia Geen
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How to make your own mask

 

 

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