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How to Make a CDC-Approved Cloth Face Mask

A fabric face covering won’t protect you from getting Covid-19 but might help prevent you from spreading the virus if you must leave the house.

THE TIME HAS come to start covering your face. As we reported April 3, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends all citizens voluntarily wear a cloth face mask for essential trips out of the house to the grocery store, doctor, or other public places where the 6-foot social distancing rules may be difficult to maintain. In short, most places.

Wearing a cloth mask might help protect people around you, if you happen to be infected with Covid-19 but do not have symptoms yet. (These are Covid-19’s typical symptoms.) Some individuals infected with Covid-19 never show symptoms or do not get very sick, especially if they are young. Basically, these masks mainly help others, not you—though if used properly, a cloth mask may help you avoid touching your face and infecting yourself while out of the house.

Be sure to frequently wash masks in the washing machine with regular detergent.

Whether you are wearing a face covering or not, the CDC still recommends that you:

  • Wash your hands regularly. Use soap and water, and wash them for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is acceptable to use if you are unable to wash your hands.
  • Cover your face when coughing with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your face, because you could transmit the virus from your hands into your mouth.
  • Stay at home, except for essential trips outside like trips to the grocery store or to see your doctor. This is also called sheltering in place.
  • Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other people. The White House also recommends avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people, which should be easy because you’re staying at home.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces daily (here’s our Covid-19 cleaning guide).

Some Mask Rules:

  • Do not buy and hoard medical masks. Health care professionals are already facing a devastating shortage in supplies, and we should not use protective masks that ill patients and health care workers may need.
  • Do not put a face mask on kids under 2 years old—or anyone who has difficulty breathing or might be unable to remove the mask themselves.
  • Do not remove a mask by its mouth area. Grab it by the straps. Wash your hands after touching it.
  • Do not just wear a standard bandana or scarf. Follow the instructions below to create a mask that has multiple layers and more tightly covers your face.
3 Ways to Make Your Own Face Covering

The CDC released directions for several DIY masks, as well as a short instructional video outlining its no-sew mask-making advice. We’ve put the instructions below.

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A DIY T-Shirt Mask (No Sewing Required)

This no-sew option is easy to make, but it’s important to note that these are made using fabric that is several layers thick and fits snugly to your face. You should not use a thin bandana or scarf haphazardly wrapped around your mouth in a single layer. If a bandana is the only cloth available to you, there are directions below to make a mask using one and a coffee filter.

What You’ll Need:

  • Tightly knit cotton material, like a T-shirt. (A scarf can work. The fabric should be big enough to fold several times and cover your nose and mouth.)
  • Two rubber bands or hair ties (also here)

How to Assemble It:

  1. Cut straight horizontally across 7-8 inches from the bottom of a T-shirt. Lay the material out flat in front of you and turn it so the side that used to be the bottom of the T-shirt (it’s usually double stitched) is facing left or right.
  2. Fold it from the bottom to the middle, and from the top to the middle. Repeat this step a second time.
  3. Loop a rubber band or hair tie around each end (left and right), leaving a few inches of fabric, so each side looks like a candy wrapper.
  4. Fold the excess material over the band, with each side meeting in the middle, adding another layer to the mask.
  5. Put a band over each ear, making sure the material is fit snugly to your face. The pressure on your face should keep the material and rubber bands in place.
A DIY Bandana and Coffee Filter Mask

This mask uses a coffee filter in the middle of layered bandana cloth to provide some protection.

What You’ll Need:

How to Assemble It:

  1. Fold the bandana square in half.
  2. Cut the coffee filter horizontally across the middle, as pictured here.
  3. Place the wide section of the filter in the middle of the folded bandana.
  4. Fold the bottom of the bandana up to the middle, covering the filter, and fold the top down over it again.
  5. Loop a rubber band or hair tie around each end (left and right), leaving a few inches of fabric, so each side looks like a candy wrapper.
  6. Fold the sides over the band so they meet in the middle and tuck them together.
  7. Put a band over each ear, making sure the material is fit snugly to your face. The pressure on your face should keep the material and rubber bands in place.
A DIY Face Mask (Sewing Required)

This mask is more difficult to make, but it may feel more comfortable and last longer.

What You’ll Need:

How to Assemble It:

  1. Stack the two rectangles of fabric.
  2. Fold the longer, 10-inch sides 1/4 inch down and sew them together.
  3. Fold the shorter, 6-inch sides 1/2 inch over and sew at the edge, leaving a small space open for the elastic to loop in.
  4. Thread the elastic through the opening you left in step 3. Tie or sew the ends together.
  5. Tuck the knots inside the opening. Gather the short sides together and stitch the elastic into place.


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