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How to make a face mask at home

We take a look at the issues around using a homemade mask and where you can find a reputable DIY method.

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Person cutting cloth

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Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a great deal of debate over the benefits of wearing a face mask while out in public. The World Health Organisation has recently changed its advice on whether or not people should wear masks. The advice now is that masks should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Victorian Government has also recently updated its health advice. According to the ABC, residents in Metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire will be required to wear masks in public as of 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July.

However, due to a shortage of P2 and N95 grade particulate-filtering masks, many people are turning to the sewing machine to make their own.

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

The simple answer to this is, no. Professor of Epidemiology for the Hospital Infection and Infectious Diseases Control at the University of New South Wales, Mary-Louise McLaws, has said that "the production of masks is complex".

"For example, some masks are made up of polypropylene central layers that are charged to prevent penetration of particles and designed to fit the face to provide a seal to prevent small particles from entering the mask.

"While a mask made out of cotton may provide a small amount of protection from droplets, it is incredibly important that this does not give people a false sense of security. If you want to wear a mask, remember it may not be hospital grade."

She also urges those making their own masks to continue adhering to other preventative measures such as good hand hygiene, social distancing and not touching your face.

Where can I buy an industry standard mask instead?

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

Why wear a homemade face mask?

While a homemade face mask may not be able to protect you from COVID-19, there may still be some benefits to wearing one.

For instance, masks may help to protect you from larger particles ejected through others sneezing or coughing. Similarly, if you are unknowingly carrying COVID-19, a mask may help to protect others from your sneezes and coughs.

As government and medical advice strongly recommends avoiding touching your face, a mask can also serve as a constant reminder to stop doing so.

Which materials will I need to make my own mask?

For the method outlined below, you will need:

  • Two 10x6-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

How to make your own face mask

If cloth or N95 masks are hard to find or out of stock online, consider sewing your own. If you have a small swatch of fabric about the size of a napkin, shoelaces, scissors, and a needle and thread, you can make a mask without additional supplies.

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 craft stores such as Spotlight or from sites like Etsy.

For more, you can see our guide on where to buy fabric to make a face mask.

Face mask patterns

If you are looking to make your own mask, there are plenty of patterns out there to get you started. For instance, sewing blog Threads Monthly has 41 free, printable sewing patterns available that have been approved by a range of different hospitals.

If you're after something a little more fashionable, you can also pick up some cute and quirky face mask patterns on Etsy for just a few dollars.

How to sew

If you've never sewed before, there are plenty of great online tutorials that can help. To get you started, we've listed a couple of videos for you to check out below:

For those using a sewing machine:

For those sewing by hand:

No-sew mask methods

If you are unable to sew, or do not have access to a sewing machine or sewing kit, there are other ways to make a homemade mask. For instance, you can craft a simple mask using a bandana and some rubber bands, or make one out of an old T-shirt.

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

Should I make my own mask?

When it comes to deciding whether or not to make your own mask, there are several factors to take into consideration:

Quality: First and foremost, a homemade mask is no equivalent to an industry standard one. There is no guarantee it will protect you from COVID-19, though it may help in other ways such as stopping you from touching your face.

Cost: As the demand for masks has risen dramatically over the past few months, so too has the cost of buying. Prices now vary quite significantly from retailer to retailer, but can typically be anywhere from $15-$100+ for a pack of cloth or surgical masks (note this is also dependent on the number of masks per pack). For an industry standard particulate-filtering mask, the cost is often even higher.

The materials needed to create your own mask, on the other hand, are relatively cheap. For instance, if you choose to make a mask from a T-shirt, it could cost you as little as $5.

Availability: While it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy an industry standard mask online, there are still plenty of online retailers stocking materials to make your own that you can have delivered.

Overall, if you can find a quality mask at an affordable price, it's still 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.


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Main image: Getty

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