Beginner's Guide to DIY Face Masks

A DIY face mask is a lot easier to make than you think and can be a great activity for kids and parents stuck at home. They also make great, affordable holiday gifts for your loved ones. Wondering how to make a face mask with fabric and without sewing? Need to go grocery shopping and want to design a face mask from a bandana? Interested in stepping up your game by sewing a DIY face mask? Here are some of the best ways we've found, and a big shoutout to the women who came up with them.

Not sure you're up for any of this? We have a few suggestions of where to buy a cloth covering further down.

Why Face Masks Matter: The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has strongly sanctioned the use of face masks as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). In fact, a DIY face mask may provide significant protection from the virus for the wearer--and protect those around you.

Disclaimer: Of course, none of the following is medical advice. It was written for informational purposes only. Curious about the virus? See the CDC website for up-to-date information on the virus’ progression or speak with your doctor if you are worried about your health.

diy face mask

3 DIY Face Mask Designs

Interested in a specific kind of face-covering? Here are a few of the most common solutions people are looking for during the pandemic. Jump to the following section to learn more about creating your own covering.

  1. How to make a face mask without sewing
  2. How to make a face mask out of a bandana (with ties)
  3. How to sew a face mask

How to Make a DIY Face Mask Without Sewing

What you’ll need: a t-shirt, scissors, and a ruler.

  1. Flatten your t-shirt on a flat surface.
  2. Using the scissors cut off the end seam.
  3. Cut a thin strip of the t-shirt from the bottom in as straight a line as possible.
  4. For an adult, mark an 8-inch width piece of the t-shirt (or 20 cm). For a teen, do 7 inches, and for a child do 6 inches.
  5. Mark the dimension in three different places, then connect them using a ruler or other flat edge.
  6. Cut along the line.
  7. Cut off a 1-2 inch piece from either end of the fabric. This will create two rectangular pieces of fabric.
  8. Take the thin strip cut that you cut earlier. Cut off the part of the strip sewn together to create two pieces.
  9. Run those pieces through your hand to make the fabric curl inward.
  10. Align the two strips perpendicularly to the rectangular cloth. Make sure they are approximately ¼ of the width of the cloth from either edge.
  11. Fold the side of the cloth over each fabric strip.
  12. Take an end of each fabric strip and knot them together.
  13. Place the fabric over your head with the knotted strip going over your head and resting at the back of your head.
  14. Pull the bottom strips in so the cloth part bunches. Tie them around your neck.
  15. Ensure that the cloth covers your nose and chin.
  16. Wash after every use.

Pro Tip: Measure our carefully and you can get several no-sew face masks out of one t-shirt.

This DIY face mask may take a little more effort, but some say it’s more comfortable than a bandana covering.

The Advantages of a DIY Face Mask

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC recommended that anyone who isn’t a healthcare worker, COVID-19 patient, or someone with a preexisting condition wear a face-covering rather than a surgical mask. Making your own DIY face mask is a great way to save critical supplies for those in need during times of crisis and help reduce your environmental impact by reusing your mask rather than buying a new one every time.

How to Make a DIY Face Mask Out of a Bandana

What you’ll need: a bandana and two hair ties (or rubber bands).

  1. Lay the bandana on a flat surface.
  2. Fold the cloth in two.
  3. Fold in half again in the same direction.
  4. Place one hair tie around the cloth at one end.
  5. Pull it towards the center, but still towards one side.
  6. Do the same for the second hair tie. Make sure they are approximately 6 inches apart from one another and evenly spaced from either end.
  7. Fold each end of the bandana inward.
  8. Layer the two sides of the cloth.
  9. Carefully pick up the folded bandana and wrap each hairband around one ear.
  10. Make sure that the DIY face mask is covering your nose and chin.
  11. Wash the bandana after each use.

How to Sew a Face Mask (5 Min)

Wondering how to sew an easy, pleated face covering? Here’s one way you can do it.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 pieces of 6” by 9” tightly woven fabric, ideally two cotton and one flannel
  • 2 pieces of elastic (⅛” by 7” long). Pro Tip: the thinner they are, the more comfortable it will be.
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Fabric trimmer

14 Steps for Sewing a DIY Face Mask

  1. Place the flannel piece on a flat surface.
  2. Line one of the fabric pieces right side up on top of the flannel piece.
  3. Pin one elastic half an inch down from the top righthand corner.
  4. Pin the other side of the same elastic half an inch above the bottom righthand corner.
  5. Repeat the process for the other side of the DIY face mask.
  6. Place the lining fabric right side down on top of the other two pieces of fabric.
  7. Pin the lining fabric in place.
  8. Sew around 3 sides of the rectangle approximately a ¼” seam, double-stitching over the elastic bands and backstitching over stops and starts. Leave a hole on one side of about 2.5” wide so that you can turn it inside out later. Make sure you do not sew through the elastic band.
  9. Clip the corners out (but don’t clip through the stitch line).
  10. Turn the mask inside out, push out the corners using a pen or other flat instrument.
  11. Flatten the mask with an iron 
  12. Fold the mask so about ¼” is overlapped at the top and bottom.
  13. Clip both and press the creases with an iron.
  14. Sew the remaining portion of the mask and around the entire perimeter.

What Do Health Officials Say About Face Masks and Coronavirus?

The CDC has recommended that all Americans cover their nose and mouth when out in public. This is especially critical if you're in an enclosed space, such as a grocery store, restaurant, or airport. The CDC has also recommended that Americans save PPE (personal protective equipment) for those who need it: notably healthcare workers, essential workers, COVID-19 patients, and people suffering from pre-existing conditions.

What should you wear instead? Making a DIY face mask is a great way to create fun and affordable coverings for yourself and friends during the pandemic. Have a sewing machine? There are many organizations looking for donations. See if a non-profit in your local area needs help.

7 Other Types of Face Masks, from DIY to Medical

You've probably heard some pretty technical terms being thrown around since the COVID-19 pandemic like N95, medical, surgical, ventilator, respirator and more. Technically, face masks are classified per ASTM standards, which are maintained by the government. a DIY face mask is a minimum performance covering, meaning that it does not claim to have any filtration technology (like a P100 mask would, for example).

Wondering what all these terms mean? Here are some important ones to understand during the pandemic. Of course, this is not medical advice.

N95 Face Mask

Also known as a particulate respirator, the N95 is a special kind of mask with air filtration technology. It may be used in surgical theaters or in treating very ill patients. At the start of the pandemic, the CDC asked Americans not to purchase N95 masks because there was a shortage and widespread concern that hospitals would not have access to the PPE they need.

Here are a few other interesting facts about N95s:

  • Also known as respirators, N95s are designed to protect the user from air and water particles.
  • They are highly regulated by the CDC and OSHA.
  • These medical devices undergo intensive filtration technology testing.
  • Results from this testing require the blockage of a minimum of 95% of particles (hence their name).

N95s are critical in the fight to control the coronavirus pandemic, especially for healthcare workers at the frontline.

Surgical Face Mask

With a loose-fitting design, these disposable face masks do not form a seal around the mouth and nose--unlike an N95. A surgical mask creates a barrier between the nose and mouth and environmental contaminants. These are also regulated by the federal government. You probably recognize them from the dentist's office or surgery.

These are disposable face masks, meaning they're designed to be used only once.

diy face mask guide

Face Shield

A face shield is a clear visor that covers the face and has a headband component. The Casco Shield is a best-selling face shield made in the U.S. and available in affordable wholesale quantities, making it a great option for students, teachers, and other essential workers.

Unlike a surgical face mask, a face does not provide filtration technology. It is designed to help stop the spread of aerosols to the eyes; a DIY face mask is only designed to help stop the spread of aerosols to the nose and mouth.

The Casco Shield is a great option for added protection during the holiday season. It features a comfortable silicone strap that is highly adjustable and comes with two visors per headband, so you can change it out when need be.

Oxygen Mask

This mask is used in the treatment of pulmonary illnesses, such as COVID-19 pneumonia. Essentially, an oxygen device transfers gas from a tank to the user. There are full face and half face options (covering nose and mouth or just the mouth.

If you have a similar product you’d like to develop, please contact our manufacturer Casco Bay Molding. The sales team will get in touch with you with a quote.

CPAP Machine

Though similar in concept to a respirator, a CPAP machine is designed for occasional use rather than continued use in a healthcare facility. People suffering from sleep apnea — a sleep disorder in which a person stops and starts breathing during the night — often use a CPAP machine during the night to facilitate breathing.

Our manufacturer Casco Bay Molding has experience designing and producing CPAP components. Please reach out to them if you are interested in developing something similar.

DIY Face Mask

Many of the cloth masks you see people wearing are DIY or made by companies that do not claim filtration technology in the masks. Here are some of the benefits of making your own cloth face mask in 2020:

  1. Cost: A DIY face mask is a great way to make a lot of them, as opposed to buying disposable ones or expensive medical ones.
  2. Sustainability: Keep washing and reusing your mask to reduce the amount of waste you put in landfills.
  3. Comfort: Choose a soft fabric to rest against your face.
  4. Fashion: There is no reason to wear a blue surgical mask. Make yours in a fun pattern.

How Often Should You Wear Your DIY Face Mask?

The CDC recommends wearing a face mask whenever in public. If you are looking for information specific to your lifestyle, see the CDC and state advisories and speak with a medical professional.

You should wear your DIY face mask when you are going to:

  1. Grocery stores
  2. Pharmacies
  3. Walks
  4. Exercising outside
  5. Interacting with others, even when social distancing
  6. Any public place with other people

A physician will have a better understanding of your lifestyle, work, and preexisting conditions. Please speak to your medical professional.

DIY Face Masks Are Common in Other Cultures

Wearing a face mask for flu prevention has been more customary in Asian cultures than in the West for some time. In short, this tradition dates back to the SARS epidemic and bird flu, both of which hit Asian countries harder than the United States.

This is also why Asian countries like Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea have been more successful at stemming the COVID-19 outbreak: They have experience with coronavirus before and knew that harsh measures had to be imposed quickly. By contrast, the U.S. did not suffer from the SARS epidemic to the same degree — and Americans have only recently become comfortable wearing medical face masks.

Why Are DIY Face Masks Important? Understanding How COVID-19 Spreads

Wondering why everyone is covering the nose and mouth these days? This is in response to government warnings based on scientific research on coronavirus transmission. There are two prevalent theories on COVID-19 transmission:

  1. The virus can be transferred person-to-person through air or fluid particles, especially when they come in contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  2. Through surfaces, hard surfaces like metal and plastic especially, infected with the virus. How long do germs live on surfaces is still being studied.

In other words, a person may get coronavirus through droplets or air particles (cough or sneeze) emitted by a sick person or from touching something with the virus and then touching their eyes/nose/mouth. Essential workers who come into contact with commonly touched surfaces and the public have been deemed most at risk.

Beyond Cloth Face Masks: Other CDC Guidelines

In light of CDC recommendations, face masks for coronavirus have gone mainstream in America. For specific information, please see the CDC website.

In addition to nose and mouth coverings, the CDC recommends such measures including but not limited to:

  • Social distancing, meaning maintaining a distance of 6 ft or more.
  • Hand-washing for a minimum of 20 seconds with warm water and soap
  • Avoiding groups and crowded places
  • Covering sneezes and coughs
  • Disinfecting and cleaning commonly touched or dirty surfaces
  • Paying attention to one’s health

The Research on Face Masks and COVID-19

The CDC recommendation follows research that suggests that a significant percentage of people suffering from the virus are asymptomatic. This makes it essential to protect oneself from getting COVID-19 or unintentionally spreading it in public.

Personal Protective Equipment Is Essential for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers put themselves at extreme risk without surgical masks. They can contract COVID-19 from droplets entering their nose, mouth, or eyes or from touching something and then touching their face. What does a face mask do? It provides a barrier that may stop or reduce the spread of droplets. It can also stop someone from touching their face.

For people who believe they are infected with coronavirus, a medical mask may also keep them from emitting droplets from their mouths or noses and infecting those around them.

The average healthy person may also benefit from protecting their nose and mouth — and simultaneously stopping themselves from touching their face.