How to make your own face mask that will work? Seven ideas for homemade face covering

alphagreen how to make your own mask

The coronavirus extends globally by leaps and bounds while triggering a massive panic and a scaring number of confirmed cases and deaths. Social networks and the mass media are overloaded with the latest updates, news, and information on how to fight the novel virus and stay calm during these uncertain times.

From Zooming clients and friends, refraining from social gatherings, and supporting the worldwide movement to #StayAtHome - a return to how life was at the beginning of 2020 is way off, even when lockdown restrictions are eased in some countries. In the view of the surrounding dangerous virus, each person has experienced changes in everyday life, usual routine, and regular activities. 

As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, many people are learning how to adapt to a new lifestyle and maintain a normal living while using an antiseptic and wearing a mask everywhere they go. While the epidemic continues to cause severe deficits of face masks, gloves, and other medical supplies, you can make a face cover from household items or common materials that are easily found at home. Some free time and a bit of practice is all you need to make a perfect one for yourself. So, look no further than our guide on how to make your own face mask and stay safe during these hard times.

Why Does Face Covering Matter?

Coronavirus is known to spread mainly from one person to another through respiratory droplets generated when an infected person is talking, coughing, or sneezing. These droplets can get into the mouths, noses, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs of individuals that are nearby. The new COVID-19 gets into the system just like other well-known viruses by entering a human body and reproducing inside. After reaching the organism, the immune system starts to attack and aims to kill it. In case the virus ever appears again, the body can eliminate unwanted guests due to the ability to ‘memorise’ the virus and produce specific ‘antibodies’ to fight that particular virus. Nevertheless, the immune system, particularly a weak one, often loses this fight as it isn't ready to identify the new type of infection.

alphagreen how to make your own mask

A recent study at the National Institutes of Health has found that released particles of the coronavirus during speaking can stay in the air for 8 to 14 minutes, making it a warning sign that airborne spread might be more common than previously thought. The speed and time length droplets remain in the air are also dependent on various factors, including the volume at which the person is talking, his or her age, and how dry their mouth is. Loud speaking can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets, which contribute to airborne virus transmission in confined environments. That's why public transport and rooms with poor ventilation are deemed to be high-risk areas for this kind of disease transmission. 

While people that are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should practise self-isolation, the virus also can be spread by people that don't have any symptoms or don't know that they are infected. Recent studies show that a major part of people that aren't exhibiting symptoms ("asymptomatic") and those who eventually experience symptoms ("pre-symptomatic") can transfer the virus to others before developing symptoms themselves. This means that the virus can transmit between people interacting in close proximity, even if those people with coronavirus display no symptoms.

In light of this evidence, CDC advises wearing cloth face coverings in every public setting such as grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and all community-based areas where other social distancing measures are difficult to sustain.

How To Wear A Face Mask Properly?

Doctors and national health services around the globe are still trying to figure out how to cope with the situation. For now, it's vital for everyone to comply with recommendations and take all available measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19.

Cloth face coverings can be a simple, inexpensive, and potentially effective method to stay safe and reduce the spread of coronavirus. They ensure an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from travelling in the air and onto others in your surroundings. Wearing cloth face coverings involves a few important rules to follow, including the following:

alphagreen how to make your own mask
  • Don't put the face mask around your neck or upon your forehead and make sure to keep the covering on your face the whole time you are out in public;
  • A cloth face covering should cover both your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe easily and as simple and comfortable as wearing a scarf or bandana that ties in the back of the head; 
  • Be sure there are no gaps between your mask and your face and try to tuck away any loose ends when wearing a face covering.

Also, before you go out in your mask and after, make sure that you:

  • Wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and after taking it off;
  • Avoid touching the front of the mask, or the part of it that has been in contact with your mouth and nose. If you do, clean your hands using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
  • Remove the mask from behind without touching the front of it. Once removed, be sure to clean any surfaces that the face-covering has touched;
  • Keep used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

Should Everyone Be Wearing Face Masks?

Despite the requirement for wearing face coverings in public, some people shouldn't wear a face covering. This applies to children under two years old, people with breathing problems, individuals that are incapacitated, unconscious, or unable to take off the mask by themselves. In fact, the CDC and healthcare professionals have mentioned that cloth facial coverings don't replace other necessary precautions. 

What Can You Also Do To Protect Yourself?

alphagreen how to make your own mask

Cloth face coverings are only an additional measure and should be combined with regular preventive actions as well as public and social distancing. While wearing a face covering is vital to help lower the virus spread, the CDC still recommends each person to follow the safety measures listed below:

  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds by using soap and water. You can use hand sanitiser or disinfectors in case you are unable to wash your hands properly;
  • Use a tissue or the inside of your elbow to cover your nose and mouth when you are coughing or sneezing; 
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with dirty hands as you can transmit the virus from your own hands;
  • Try to stay at home aside from essential trips such as shopping in a grocery store or visiting your doctor;
  • Support social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet (about two arms lengths) away from others; 
  • Wipe and disinfect all frequently-touched surfaces daily including phones, keyboards, and car steering wheels.

What Types Of Face Masks Work Best?

When it comes to choosing face masks for coronavirus prevention, there are generally three types of face coverings such as a respirator, surgical mask, and homemade cloth face mask. Let's discuss each face covering in more detail.

alphagreen how to make your own mask


A respirator is made of tangled fibres that are effective at filtering pathogens and used to reduce the wearer's exposure to gases, vapours, or hazardous airborne particles, including infectious agents. Respirators must meet strict filtration standards to be certified for occupational uses by the CDC/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). When correctly fitted and worn, only minor leakage happens around edges of the respirator when a user inhales, which means that almost all of the air flows across the filter material. 

Since the diameter of the novel virus is estimated to be approximately 125 nanometers (nm), it should go without saying that it's essential to know the difference in respirators and their potential effectiveness.

  • Certified N95 respirators. If protection provided by filer is at least 95% of airborne particles that are from 100 to 300 nm in size, this respiratory receives a 95 rating; 
  • N99 respirators. Those respirators that filter out minimum 99% of these particles get a "99" rating;
  • N100 respirators. In the case of at least 99.97% filtration of these particles, respirator receives a "100" rating. 

NIOSH-approved respirators are marked with the name of the manufacturer, the rating protection against oils (Not resistant/Resistant/Proof), the provided filtration (e.g., N-100), and "NIOSH." 

Surgical Masks

alphagreen how to make your own mask

Surgical masks are single-use, loose-fitting face masks that compose of breathable synthetic fabric and cover the nose, mouth, and jawline. They provide barrier protection from sprays, splashes, and large-particle droplets, and might protect others by decreasing exposure to the potentially infectious respiratory secretions of the mask wearer.

Face masks can vary in design, but the mask itself is typically flat and has a rectangular shape with pleats that expand to cover nose, mouth, and jawline. The top of the mask includes a metal strip that can be shaped to your nose. Surgical masks aren't required to create an airtight seal against the area they cover and don't eliminate leakage around the edge of the mask when a wearer inhales. They also don't require testing, seal check, or meeting NIOSH filtration standards, unlike respirators.

Despite distinctions in fit and filtration capacity, the randomly assigned trial suggests that surgical face masks and N95 respirators lower participant risk of different respiratory illnesses in similar ways. Effectiveness of surgical masks filter pathogens varies largely, with reports ranging from < 10% to up to 90%. Apart from filtration efficiency, the risk decrease associated with surgical masks depends on good fit and facial seal.

Cloth Masks

alphagreen how to make your own mask

Cloth face coverings are recommended for everyone while being outside in public settings over the use of surgical masks and N95 respirators. Those coverings are in limited supply and must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders.

Wearing a face covering can help to protect others if you are infected but don't have coronavirus symptoms. At the same time, homemade face masks can give users a false sense of security. Cloth masks are less effective at protecting as most masks have gaps near the nose, cheeks, and jaw where tiny air droplets can be inhaled by the wearer. 

A 2008 study indicated that homemade masks might be about twice as less effective as surgical masks while providing up to 50 times less protection compared to N95 respirators. However, they are better than not using any face covering and ensure at least minimal protection, especially where it is hard to avoid physical distancing. Follow the instructions below to make a homemade face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Making Your Own Face Mask

From an overall public health point of view, any type of face mask can still decrease viral transmission. The face-covering must be conveniently attached behind the ears or the head and covering the mouth and nose, fit snugly to the face while allowing to breathe comfortably without any discomfort. Also, it's important to integrate all measures for optimal protection such as proper hygiene, social and physical distancing in conjunction with wearing face masks when you are out in public. 

You can create various cloth face masks at home using traditional materials, which provide an unlimited supply of face coverings. These options include both non-sewn and sew-required variants so that each person will find the most suitable and easy-to-make versions of cloth face masks.

Non-Sewn Face Covering

A DIY T-Shirt Mask Without Rubber Bands

The CDC released directions for numerous do-it-yourself (DIY) masks, including a no-sew option that is easy to make. Refrain from using a thin bandana or scarf, instead opt for a fabric with a thickness of several layers that fits snugly on your face. If a bandana is the only cloth you have, make sure to read directions below to make a mask with multiple layers that cover your face more tightly and provide additional protection.

You will need:

  • A T-shirt (preferably 100% cotton or another breathable material);
  • Scissors;
  • A ruler.


alphagreen how to make your own mask

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Put the T-shirt on a flat surface in front of you;
  • Cut out nearly 20 cm from the bottom of the T-shirt, so that you have a rectangle of material;
  • From the obtained piece of fabric, cut the base for the mask - 15-17 cm;
  • To put together the mask, cut the middle of the fabric strips to get strings;
  • Tie one set around your neck and then another one over the top of your head.

A DIY T-Shirt Mask (With rubber bands)

US General Surgeon Jerome Adams also showed how to make a mask out of a regular T-shirt, scarf, bandana, or small towel. One of the advantages of the method is that it doesn't require anything but a pair of rubber bands (even clerical ones will do).

You will need:

  • An old T-shirt, bandana, or square cloth from tightly knit cotton material (cut approximately 20" x20");
  • Two rubber bands/hair ties;
  • Scissors and a ruler.


alphagreen how to make your own mask
  • Place the T-shirt on a flat surface and fold the sleeves to the centre so that they don't interfere;
  • Take the bottom edge of the T-shirt and fold it to the middle. Repeat the same with the top edge;
  • Repeat until you get the desired width of the mask;
  • Put on rubber bands on both sides;
  • Fold the free edges to the middle, securing the rubber bands in place.

A DIY Bandana With Coffee-Filter Mask

Another option of mask involves the use of a coffee filter in the middle of layered cloth for an additional safety precaution.

You will need:

  • Bandana or scarf (50x50 cm); 
  • Scissors; 
  • Coffee filter;
  • Two elastic rubber bands or hair ties.
alphagreen how to make your own mask


Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Cut out the coffee filter;
  • Fold the bandana in half;
  • Put the coffee filter in the centre;
  • Cover it with the top and bottom of the bandana;
  • Put two elastic bands on a folded material;
  • Cover the rubber bands with the edges of the bandana, bending them to the centre; 
  • Smooth out the newly made mask.

A DIY Bandana With Paper Towel

You will need:

  • T-shirt;
  • Scissors;
  • Paper towel;
  • Permanent marker.


alphagreen how to make your own mask

Masks 4 All

  • Lay your T-shirt on a flat surface so that all the edges are lined up;
  • Draw a straight dotted line from one side to the other under the pits of the T-shirt; 
  • Mark off a semi-oval on both sleeves from the edges over the seam; 
  • Cut on the dotted line and cut out the semi-ovals on each sleeve;
  • Insert a paper towel in between the two layers of your cloth mask to work as a filter for any droplets you may exhale;
  • Put the mask around your face covering your nose and mouth;
  • Take the longer straps on the bottom of the mask, pull them straight up by tying straps on top of your head and top straps under the back of your head.

Sewn Cloth Face Covering

A DIY Face Mask

You will need:

  • Two rectangles of cotton fabric (24cm x 17cm);
  • Two elastic rubber bands 18cm long (string, cloth strips, or hair ties);
  • Sewing machine;
  • Scissors;
  • A ruler;
  • Needle and thread (or bobby pin).


alphagreen how to make your own mask

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Fold your fabric in half, measure, and cut a rectangle to get two pieces of the same size - this is the basis of the mask;
  • Fold the double layer of the top and bottom of the fabric down 0.75 cm and hem. Then fold the short sides up 1.5 cm and stitch down;
  • Thread an elastic string through the wider hem on each side of the fabric to make ear loops. Run your strings through with the help of a needle or a bobby pin and tie the ends tight. If you use rubber bands, make sure to place them inside the fabric before hemming them;
  • To tuck the knots inside the mask, gently pull on the strings. Be sure to stitch the elastic in place to prevent it from slipping and adjust the mask, so it fits your face.  

A DIY Face Mask With Filter

alphagreen how to make your own mask

You will need:

  • Two squares of cotton fabric (24cm x 17cm);
  • Two elastic rubber bands 18cm long (string, cloth strips, or hair ties);
  • Filter (coffee filter or paper towel);
  • Sewing machine;
  • Scissors;
  • A ruler;
  • Needle and thread (or bobby pin).


  • Cut your fabric to get two rectangles and carefully stack them on top of each other;
  • Fold the top of the material down 0.75 cm and hem all the way across;
  • Fold the bottom of the fabric down 0.75 cm and stitch down 2.5 cm from each edge to create a pocket for your filter;
  • Next, fold the short sides up 1.5 cm and stitch down;
  • Thread an elastic string through the wider hem on each side of the fabric to make ear loops. Run your strings through with the help of a needle or a bobby pin and tie the ends tight. If you use rubber bands, make sure to place them inside the fabric before hemming them;
  • To tuck the knots inside the mask, gently pull on the strings. Be sure to stitch the elastic in place to prevent it from slipping;
  • Cut your filter material, carefully slip it inside the pocket, and adjust the mask, so it fits your face. 

A DIY Face Mask With Filter (Alternative Variant)

You will need:

  • Fabric for the mask (optimal dense cotton fabric) - about 40x40 cm;
  • Filter (coffee filter/paper towel/gauze/reusable grocery bags);
  • Elastic tape 0.5 cm wide - about 50 cm;
  • Sewing machine;
  • Scissors;
  • Chalk or pencil for fabric;
  • A ruler;
  • Needle and thread (or bobby pin).


alphagreen how to make your own mask
  • Find the proper pattern for the mask, print the page with the patterns, or draw it yourself according to the given sizes. For each mask, you will need two patterns: the main part and the lining. Cut out patterns from paper;
  • Put the pattern on the fabric and fasten it with pins, then chalk around and cut along the line of the stroke;
  • Sew both pairs of parts together along the arcuate side. At this point, be careful if you are making a mask with a picture where alignment is important. You need to stitch together the two parts with the pattern, folding them with their faces pointed at one another;
  • Align the two parts of the mask together so that the seams remain outside;
  • Sew the two parts of the mask together along the long sides. At the same time, sew the bottom of the mask only 2.5 cm on each side, leaving room for a future filter, and do not stitch two opposite short sides for now;
  • Turn the mask face out and fold the short side of the mask about 1 cm inward;
  • Insert and sew in the edge of the elastic tape. Sew the second edge inward at the opposite end of the short side of the mask;
  • Now sew the hole with the tape and sew it in the same way to the opposite side of the mask and sew the hole;
  • Cut your filter material, carefully slip it inside the pocket, and adjust the mask so it fits your face. 

How To Care For Your Cloth Covering?

alphagreen how to make your own mask

It's essential to clean your cloth face-covering after each use. Make sure to remove and dispose of the filter before cleaning your mask. You can carefully wash it by hand using warm, soapy water or just include it with your regular laundry.

Washing machine: Use regular washing powder and the warmest appropriate water setting for the fabric used to make the face mask.

Cleaning by hand:

  • Be sure to check the label whether your bleach is intended for disinfection; 
  • Make a bleach solution by mixing five tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water or four teaspoons per litre of room temperature water;
  • Soak the mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes;
  • Rinse face-covering thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.

After washing, leave your mask in your dryer using the highest heat. As an alternative, you can lay your mask flat in direct sunlight or hang up to dry. Once your cloth mask has completely dried, you can put a new filter into it.

Final Thoughts 

alphagreen how to make your own mask

As the science regarding face masks is clear, wearing homemade face coverings can help to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Remember that a mask isn't an anti-virus shield and doesn't really protect you from infection. Instead, it helps to stop the spread of the virus by airborne droplets if you are the carrier of the virus. 

Wearing a face covering is extremely critical during a pandemic time when each person with the disease can transmit the infection to at least three other people. All cloth masks work as a barrier as they don't allow droplets of saliva to get on the face of surrounding people when a sick person is sneezing and coughing. At the same time, it's a good idea to leave special medical masks for doctors and medical workers and make your own mask in just a few minutes.

Creating a face-covering doesn't require special skills or expensive equipment. You can make most cloth masks using materials commonly found at home and without knowing how to sew. What's more, the effectiveness of homemade face masks might be increased with proper construction, wear, and maintenance as well as essential measures such as regular hands cleaning, keeping physical distance, and supporting social isolation.

Stay calm, stay home, stay safe, and leave coronavirus no chance!

Verified by a Healthcare Professional

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.