Following new guidance issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people in the U.S. wear masks in public settings to mitigate the spread of covid-19 between individuals who may be asymptomatic—and as available masks are desperately needed by health workers on the front lines of the global coronavirus pandemic—the agency has now issued a guide for do-it-yourself masks from a coffee filter or T-shirt.
The CDC recommended the DIY masks as an additional precaution used in addition to, and not instead of, maintaining social distance of at least six feet from other people. And other measures—including avoiding touching your face—should also continue to be front-of-mind anytime you are in public spaces outside your home. That said, both masks the CDC recommends can be made in minutes and require little more than a pair of scissors or, if you’re feeling ambitious, a mini sewing kit or machine.
For this mask, the CDC says you’ll need a coffee filter, rubber bands or hair ties, scissors, and a bandanna or square cotton cloth measuring roughly 20 inches on each side.
- First, cut the coffee filter in half lengthwise (so, parallel to the opening at the top)
- Next, fold the bandanna or cloth in half
- Place the top portion of the coffee filter in the middle of the folded bandanna
- Fold the top and bottom thirds of the bandanna over the middle section where you put the coffee filter
- Place rubber bands or hair ties roughly six inches apart evenly from both of the two ends
- Fold the ends over to the middle, and slip the rubber bands around your ears
To keep the rubber bands in place, try pinning them with a bobby pin, safety pin, or a needle and thread if you have it.
This mask only requires a T-shirt and scissors.
- At the bottom of the T-shirt, cut a 7- to 8-inch-tall band
- Cut out a rectangle roughly 6 to 7 inches in length and 5 to 6 inches in height from one side, leaving at least a quarter-inch of fabric between the cut and the edge of the fabric
- Cut these ends to create strings
- Ties those at the back of your head and neck to secure the mask
For this mask, the agency says you’ll need two 10-inch-by-6-inch pieces of cotton fabric, two 6-inch pieces of elastic (such as rubber bands or hair ties) or strings, scissors, and a needle and thread or sewing machine. The CDC recommends using tightly woven fabric—such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets—but notes a T-shirt will work fine.
- Start by stacking the two pieces of cloth so that they are aligned the same way
- Fold the top and bottom of the long sides down a quarter of an inch and sew them in place
- Fold the shorter sides over half an inch and sew them in place
- Thread the 6-inch elastic bands through the half-inch openings on the shorter sides of the fabric and tie the ends together (the CDC recommends using a bobby pin or a large needle to help)
- Tuck the knots inside the hems at each side
- Make sure the mask is fitted to your face, and secure the elastic bands in place with thread
For visual step-by-step instructions for any of these DIY masks, head to the CDC website. Make sure that whichever mask you make is fitted to your face but still allows you to breathe easily.
The CDC stresses that masks do not replace any other measure or recommendation to prevent the spread of the virus, including maintaining six feet of space between you and another individual. It also notes that masks should be frequently washed (a washing machine is fine) and that you should avoid touching your face—especially your nose, eyes, and mouth—while taking off the mask. And always, always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds if you have been in any public space outside of your home.