The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans wear cloth masks or other face coverings in public as a preventative measure to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The recommendation is a reversal from previous guidelines issued by the agency, which had said that healthy people did not need to wear face coverings. The agency started to rethink those guidelines as more and more evidence showed that asymptomatic people could unwittingly spread the virus.
Though homemade masks don’t offer the protective seal of N95 masks, studies show homemade masks are better than nothing, especially if people find themselves in a confined space like a MAX train or bus.
Beyond the protection they offer to those wearing them, they also reduce the likelihood that people with the virus, who may not be showing symptoms, will spread it to others.
Don’t have a face mask?
We put together three DIY video tutorials, of varying difficulty, to show you how to make face masks at home.
NO SEWING REQUIRED
Here are a couple no-sew option to make face masks using a scarf, paper towels and hair ties.
- Substitutes: You can substitute rubber bands or other elastic materials for the hair ties. Napkins or coffee filters could be used instead of paper towels.
- Difficulty level: Moderate.
This mask tutorial is based on a Popular Science article that references a MakerMask guide by Helpful Engineering. It calls for a reusable grocery bag made from non-woven polypropylene, similar to the material N95 masks are made of. It also uses pipe cleaners, which allow for an adjustable fit around the nose. Be sure to wash your reusable bag before starting this project.
- Substitutes: A paperclip or other wire could be used instead of pipe cleaners. Instead of a grocery bag, you could use cotton fabric. Ribbon, shoelaces or narrow strands of fabric can be used for mask ties. This is a hand-sewing method, but you could try using a sewing machine.
SEWING MACHINE TUTORIAL
- Difficulty level: Difficult.
This mask pattern is adapted from a New York Times tutorial. The design calls for cotton fabric and a sewing machine.
- Substitutes: If you don’t have cotton fabric, you could cut an old T-shirt or other cotton clothing. You could use ribbon, shoelaces or narrow strands of fabric for the mask ties. This tutorial uses a sewing machine, but you could also try sewing this pattern by hand.
There are many tutorials online about how to make face masks and whether certain materials are better than others. A Business Insider article says that certain blue shop towels are more effective at filtering particles. Whatever you decide to make, remember that wearing a mask does not mean you can ignore social distancing and stay-home guidelines.
OTHER IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT WEARING HOMEMADE FACE MASKS
- Homemade masks are not replacements for proper equipment.
- Anyone wearing a homemade mask in public should make sure that the mask covers both the nose and mouth and be careful when adjusting it. The tighter the seal, the better.
- If your mask has straps that go over the ears, you should put it on and remove it by pulling off those straps.
- You should avoid touching the mask regularly or reaching under the mask.
- Contaminated or damaged masks are not effective.
- Wash or dispose of your mask after use.
– Teresa Mahoney @TeresaMahoney
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