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How to make your own face mask at home

Making a homemade face mask is easy even if you don't have a sewing machine.

Canadian health authorities have warned that the actual protective benefits of homemade masks are quite limited, but you may want to wear one if you can’t get a hold of a higher-quality face mask and want to reduce the possibility of spreading your own respiratory droplets.

Getting your own protective wear is becoming especially important. This is because certain regions in Canada are beginning to implement bylaws requiring people to wear masks in public places. Additionally, the World Health Organization issued an advisory encouraging governments to ask people to wear fabric face masks when in out in public to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

To make things easy, we’ll show you how to make a no-sew face mask at home plus give you the information you need to get started if sewing is more your thing. We’ll also walk through the differences between homemade and industry-standard face masks, so you can better decide which is best for your needs. There are many online stores that are currently selling cloth masks if you would rather purchase a ready-made cloth mask.

What materials will I need to make my own mask?

For the no-sew method outlined below, you’ll need:

  • A bandana or square piece of fabric
  • Two 6-inch pieces of elastic (or string, cloth strips, hair ties or rubber bands)
  • A coffee filter
  • Scissors
If you prefer to sew your own face mask, you’ll need:

  • Two 10×6-inch rectangles of a tightly woven fabric
  • Two 6-inch pieces of elastic (or string, cloth strips, hair ties or rubber bands)
  • Needle and thread (or bobby pin)
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine

Where can I buy these materials?

Most mask tutorials require relatively basic materials such as cloth, elastic, rubber bands or T-shirts. You should be able to source everything you need from retailers that sell products online such as Walmart, Staples, Amazon, eBay and Etsy.

Use the following shopping guides to round up the supplies you don’t already have:

How to make a no-sew face mask

If you don’t know how to sew or don’t have access to a sewing machine or sewing kit, there are other ways to make a simple homemade mask with just a bandana or t-shirt, a coffee filter, a couple of elastic bands and scissors. No needles or stitching required!

Want to sew your own face mask?

If you’ve never sewn before, there are plenty of great online tutorials that can help you get started. Check out the videos below to learn the basics of using a sewing machine and doing stitches by hand. To make a face mask, all you’ll need is 2 small swatches of fabric (each about the size of a napkin), a couple of elastics, a needle and thread (or bobby pin), scissors and a sewing machine.

You can find a detailed explanation of how to make these kinds of masks on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Sewing machine basics

Video by: Good Housekeeping

Hand stitching basics

Video by: Naztazia

Will a homemade face mask protect me from getting sick?

No. Some masks are made using special materials like polypropylene (a type of plastic) and processes such as melt-blowing that make it difficult for particles to penetrate the materials and enter the wearer’s body. Cotton masks are not similarly made and provide very limited protection against respiratory droplets entering the body.

While not all masks provide the same level of protectiveness, covering your mouth and nose can help prevent moisture from breathing and coughing from traveling too far in the air. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, confirms that wearing both medical and non-medical masks can help prevent illness from spreading.

Dr. Tam says that non-medical masks can be worn “as an additional measure” to protect other people, however these masks have not actually been proven to protect the wearers from getting sick.

In addition to being much cheaper and more readily available than industry-standard masks, homemade masks can serve as a constant reminder to avoid touching your face in accordance with governmental and medical advisories.

If you can find a quality mask at an affordable price, it’s always the better option. However, if you can’t find any in stock or can’t afford to pay inflated prices, a homemade version could be a good alternative.

Are people required to wear face masks in Canada?

It depends on where you live. Certain cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston in Ontario have implemented bylaws requiring people to wear face masks when in public. Outside these jurisdictions, businesses and other organizations may still exercise the discretion to require customers and employees to wear face masks. In some regions, wearing a mask is mandatory when riding public transit.

The consequences for failing to follow regional rules usually involve stiff fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

It’s expected that more cities will consider adopting similar bylaws in the future to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as per the World Health Organization’s recommendations. Previously, the WHO had issued a statement advising governments to request that people wear fabric face masks in public.

Take a look at this helpful page on the Government of Canada website to learn more about masks that offer the best protection during COVID-19. You can also learn about when and how to use masks from on the World Health Organization’s site.

When is it appropriate to wear medical-grade face masks?

In most regions in Canada, people are not required to wear face masks. But the World Health Organization (WHO), highly recommends doing so if you’re sick or are caring for someone who’s sick. This includes health care workers and first responders whose masks must be medical-grade to ensure the highest protection. Additionally, the WHO issued an advisory encouraging governments to ask people to wear fabric face masks in public to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

As it is, many people have already been choosing to wear face masks when heading out in public to buy groceries or pick up other necessities. Being extra protected is especially helpful if you’re a member of a more physically vulnerable demographic or are living in a more populated area.

Take a look at this helpful page on the Government of Canada website to learn more about masks that offer the best protection during COVID-19.

Where can I buy medical-grade face masks?

Check out the following guides to learn more about different types of masks and to discover online retailers that can ship masks straight to your door.

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