How to make a face mask at home

Your questions answered about homemade masks, and some reputable DIY methods for making one.

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From 15 June, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport in England. Full advice on our masks hub here
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Since the coronavirus outbreak, doctors and scientists the world over have debated the benefits of people wearing a homemade face mask while out in public. Countries have taken different views – even official bodies within the same country haven’t agreed. We answer some common questions about homemade masks, and show an easy way to make one.

How to make your own no-sew face mask

For this simple method, all you need is a bandana or square scarf, scissors, a coffee filter and elastic hair bands. This is based on instructions from the public health body in the US, the CDC.

You can find a detailed explanation of how to make DIY masks on the CDC site.

Step-by-step: How to sew your own mask

If you’ve got a sewing machine handy at home, you could also try sewing your own mask with any kind of tightly woven cotton fabric, such as t-shirts or cotton sheets.

Materials needed

  • Two 10″ x 6″ (25cm x 15cm) rectangles of cotton fabric (cotton sheets, T-shirts or quilting fabric)
  • Two 6″ (15cm) pieces of elastic or rubber bands, string or hair ties
  • Needle and thread or a bobby pin
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine

Step 1

Cut out two 10-by-6-inch (25cm x 15cm) rectangles of your cotton fabric. Then, stack the two rectangles together for sewing; this is your mask base.

face mask

Step 2

Fold over the long sides ¼ inch (0.5cm) and hem. Then, fold the double layer of fabric over ½ inch (1cm) along the short sides and stitch down.

face mask 2

Step 3

Push your 6-inch (15cm) length of 1/8-inch (3mm) wide elastic through the wider hem on each side of the mask for the ear loops. Use a large needle or your bobby pin to thread it through and tie the ends tight.

Substitute with hair ties if you don’t have any elastic. If you’re using string, make the ties longer and tie the mask behind your head.
face mask 3

Step 4

Pull on the elastic gently to tuck the knots inside the hem. Gather the sides of the mask and adjust for the ideal fit. Then, stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping.
face mask 4
Photos by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Will a homemade face mask protect me from COVID-19?

Not directly, but there are still reasons to consider using one. Wearing a homemade cloth mask is more about keeping the virus in than keeping it out – in other words, protecting the people around you if you have coronavirus but aren’t showing symptoms. Equally, if others around you are wearing one, then that could help protect you. The idea is that the cloth will prevent the spread of droplets from your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. But experts are split on whether this is really effective.

What’s the official advice about masks?

The latest advice from the UK government is that people in England, aged two and over, should wear a face-covering when in an enclosed public space such as in certain shops, or on public transport, where it’s hard to keep apart from other people. The aim of face-coverings is to help prevent the wearer from inadvertently spreading the disease – some people have no symptoms but can spread it. England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, has asked the public to stick to DIY homemade face-coverings or scarves, instead of medical and surgical masks that should be reserved for front-line carers. As devolved nations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are publishing their own advice on such restrictions. The public are already advised to wear masks in Scotland and Northern Ireland when in enclosed spaces such as shops, or on public transport.

The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains its difference in opinion on the public’s use of face masks. It currently recommends wearing one only if you’re ill or caring for someone who’s ill. The WHO even warns that wearing a mask can give you a false sense of security.

Where can I buy materials to make my own mask?

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 sites like eBay.

Where can I buy an industry-standard mask instead?

If you would rather buy a mask than make your own, you can see one of our buying guides below:

Handmade and other cloth masks for sale in the UK

PrettyLittleThing pink unicorn print fashion mask
PrettyLittleThing pink unicorn print fashion mask

PrettyLittleThing

Fashion masks. Assorted designs & sizes. Free delivery
Fashion masks. Assorted designs & sizes. Free delivery

Vistaprint

Free shipping!
Vistaprint face masks
Vistaprint: Shop Vistaprint for masks in assorted designs and sizes suitable for the whole family!
Note: Vistaprint's masks are not medical devices or personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Replaceable filter system
  • Assorted designs, patterns & colours
  • Adult & kids sizes
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How to safely put on your cloth face mask

When putting a mask on, a tight seal should be created against your nose and mouth. You should test that a seal has been created by exhaling heavily. Air should not escape through any cracks. If a seal hasn’t been created, re-fit and test again.

How to remove your cloth mask

First, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. When you’re ready to take the mask off, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth when doing so and wash your hands immediately after removing.

Are cloth masks washable?

Yes. Homemade cloth masks made from scarves and T-shirts are easily washable and you should clean them after every use. A washing machine should suffice for properly washing a face covering, or hand-washing your mask in hot soapy water and leaving it to dry is recommended.

Summary: How to make your own face mask

  1. Cut out two 10-by-6-inch (25cm x 15cm) rectangles of cotton and stack them together.
  2. Fold over the long sides ¼ inch (0.5cm) and hem.
  3. Fold the double layer over ½ inch (1cm) along the short sides and stitch down.
  4. Run your 6-inch (15cm) elastic through the wider hem on both sides for ear loops before tying the ends.
  5. Pull on the elastic gently to tuck the knots inside the hem.
  6. Gather the sides to adjust for the perfect fit. Then, stitch the elastic in place.

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