Get answers to your questions about making and wearing DIY face masks in this helpful guide!
Research shows that wearing a face mask can slow the spread of viruses and germs into our communities. And yet, medical grade masks, like N95 respirators and surgical masks, are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders. So what do we do? We make our own DIY face masks! Ever since the CDC began recommending we wear cloth face masks when we go out in public, those of us with a means to make our own face masks have been very busy. So we’re here to help you get the answers you need about making and wearing DIY face masks!
Let’s start with the biggest question we get:
How do you make a simple DIY face mask?
Here’s a three-minute video that shows you how to make a simple face mask with the most effective fabric you can find at home:
And here is where you can get the free patterns to make this easy face mask:
How do I make a gaiter-style face mask?
Get my free Gaiter Face Mask Pattern for an easy and comfortable style — you can even add a nose wire and filter pocket. Super easy to make, but does require a little sewing.
Why make a face mask? Why not just buy one?
Due to shortages of N95 respirators and surgical masks, the CDC recommends we make and wear cloth face masks so the medical-grade masks can be reserved for our essential healthcare workers. If you’ve already got a medical-grade mask you’ve been using (and take care of), keep using it. Otherwise, make your own face mask!
Why do I even need to wear a face mask?
The CDC recommends a face covering that covers your nose and mouth to slow the spread of the virus and help reduce the spread of the virus from people who may have the virus and do not know it.
Do homemade face masks really work?
We’ve found numerous studies that indicate that a mask of some kind does indeed help prevent particles that can contain viruses and germs from being transmitted to others. Wearing a DIY mask may not protect you from getting a virus, but it can slow the spread of your own bugs into the community … and this can make a big difference. Here are the research articles and testing studies we’ve found that support the use of DIY face masks:
Testing Shows Types of Cloth Used in Homemade Masks Makes a Difference (Wake Forest Health, 2020)
Simple Respiratory Protection (The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 2010)
Testing the Efficacy of Homemade Masks (Cambridge University, 2013)
Reusability of Facemasks During an Influenza Pandemic: Facing the Flu (Institute of Medicine, 2006)
Beneficial cardiovascular effects of reducing exposure to particulate air pollution with a simple facemask (Environ Health Perspect, 2012)
Should everyone wear a face mask?
No. Per the CDC, children under the age of 2, people with trouble breathing, and anybody unable to remove a mask unassisted should not wear a face mask. For more information on face masks for children, see my post that will answer all of your questions!
Do I always need to wear a face mask?
You should wear a mask when you are in a situation where you may be near other people. You’ll still want to follow social distancing guidelines.
Should I be wearing a medical face mask instead of a cloth face covering?
No, medical-grade PPE should be reserved for healthcare workers according to the CDC.
I’ve heard of PPE. What does that mean?
PPE is the acronym for Personal Protective Equipment. It is the equipment you wear to minimize hazard exposure.
How should my face mask fit my face?
Ensuring a good fit is important to reduce the number of times you will touch the mask or adjust it. Some things to look for in a good fit include:
- A good face mask covers your nose and mouth. Covering your chin is not necessary but could help it fit better.
- It should be comfortable and snug.
- You should be able to breathe without any restrictions.
- You want to minimize the number of gaps. There will be some gaps, but the fewer and smaller the better.
If you are looking for DIY Face Mask patterns, we have both a DIY Fabric mask with ties and a filter pocket and a no-sew face mask pattern.
What features should I look for in a face mask?
The CDC recommends a fabric face cover with the following features:
- Fits snugly around the sides of your face.
- Your breathing is not restricted.
- It is made of multiple layers of material.
- It is secured with ties or loops around your ears.
- It does not change shape or get damaged when it is machine washed and dried.
We have two different DIY face mask patterns that meet these standards. We have a sewn fabric mask and a no-sew face mask pattern.
How do I put on and wear my face mask?
Here are the important steps to remember when wearing a face mask, according to Sanford Health:
- Make sure the mask is in the right orientation before putting it on. That means that the front is facing the front (if the two sides look the same, be sure to mark them so you can tell later). That also means if your mask has an edge that goes against your nose, it should be facing up (not all masks do).
- Secure the loops, ties, or elastic behind your ears or around your head.
- If there is a metallic or wire piece (such as in our DIY face mask pattern), press it to fit the shape of your nose.
- Cover your nose and mouth fully, and minimize the number of gaps. Keep the mask on when near others. Do not push it down or take off a tie or loop.
- Do not touch the mask while using it. If you accidentally touch it, wash your hands right away.
- Take off the mask from behind by holding the loops, ties, or elastic with clean hands.
What is the best fabric to make masks?
The latest research shows that the best fabric to make DIY face masks is a combination of non-woven polypropylene and 100% cotton that is tightly woven with a high thread count, such as quilting fabric. If you don’t have closely woven cotton, a heavyweight cotton T-shirt works in a pinch. Learn more about the variety of fabrics that can be used (and what to avoid) in your DIY face masks here.
I don’t have a T-shirt or cotton fabric. Can I use an old pair of jeans?
100% cotton jeans probably won’t stretch well enough. How about an old sheet instead?
Should each layer of the face mask be different colors/patterns/fabrics, or can I use the same one?
Each face mask fabric layer should be different colors or patterns so the wearer can tell which is outside and which is inside. We don’t want them to accidentally put the side they’d be wearing on the outside against their face. If the layers are the same, simply write “F” for front and “B” for back in permanent marker on each side.
Do I have to cut and wear two fabric layers?
Two layers are the CDC’s recommendation, and my research indicates that two layers are more effective than one. But you work with what you have — one layer is still better than no layers.
Should I put in a filter in my DIY face mask?
A filter is optional. If you use one, be sure it is sandwiched between two layers of fabric and replaced regularly. See my list of Face Mask Filter Materials so you can make an informed decision on the best material to use for a filter.
Can I make a face mask on my Cricut cutting machine?
Yes! I have a free SVG cut file pattern that comes in six sizes, along with a tutorial that shows you how to make a DIY face mask on a Cricut cutting machine! The Cricut is a great option if you’re cutting just one or two masks. If you plan to make many masks, I recommend you print out the printable pattern on cardstock and use a rotary cutter to cut multiple layers of fabric a bit faster.
What is the best homemade face mask pattern?
There are many different styles, from a simple cut and wear masks (easy no-sew) to rectangular pleated styles (simple to sew) to fitted face masks with nose guards and adjustable ties (best fitting and most comfortable). The best pattern is going to be one with multiple layers that fit well, and the one you can make and wear comfortably, which means you don’t take it off and can breathe through it easily. So the answer is different for everyone. My personal favorite, and the one I wear when I go out, is our DIY Face Mask with Adjustable Ties and Nose Guard pattern.
Do you sell fabric masks?
No, we do not sell any fabric masks. However, we do teach you how to make your own masks with material you have at home. It’s a lot easier than you might think! We have written tutorials and videos showing you how to create our DIY Face Mask and no-sew mask.
What can I do to protect my ears? The straps hurt my ears after I wear it for a while.
There are a couple of options to help with your ears. We have a pattern for making a DIY headband with buttons to use with your Face Mask. You could also add longer straps to tie around the back of your head as we have with our DIY face mask pattern. Ear savers (small plastic buckles) are another option, and these can be sewn, crocheted, cut from plastic, or made on a 3D printer.
Can I use a paper clip for my mask nose piece?
Yes, you can unbend a paper clip, floral wire, or another metal strip that you can form to help get a good fit.
What do I need to remember when I put on my mask?
It is important to make sure you wash your hands before and after wearing a mask. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Also, pick up your mask by the ties or straps.
Should I remove my mask when I make a phone call?
If you need to make a phone call and you have your mask on, make sure your phone does not touch your mask. You should use the speakerphone, if possible, and be sure to disinfect your phone afterward.
My glasses keep fogging up when I wear my mask. What can I do to prevent this?
If you wear glasses with your face mask, try these tips to avoid having them fog up on you:
- Right before you put on your glasses, wash your glasses with soapy water and shake off the excess, then allow to air dry. The soapy water gives your glasses a “thin surfactant film” that temporarily prevents your breath from fogging it up.
- Put a little shaving cream on your glasses and then let it dry to reduce fogging.
- Use an anti-fog spray, such as Anti-Fog Treatment or Quick Spit.
- Wear a mask that fits around your nose really well, as this will block most of the breaths from going upward and into your glasses.
How do I remove my face mask?
Try not to touch the front of your face mask, and instead remove it by the ties or ear loops. Wash your hands both before and after removing your mask.
How do I wash my DIY face mask?
The CDC advises that regular washing in a washing machine should suffice. You should be able to dry your DIY mask in the dryer as well. Do not microwave it.
How do I store my clean fabric mask when I’m not wearing it?
You should try to store your mask in a paper bag and avoid containers or plastic bags that might lock in moisture. You want the mask to be dry. The particles that can carry viruses need moisture to survive.
Is there a need for people to make face masks?
Yes, there is a definite need for face masks. The general population needs to wear face masks when going out in public, but should not use N95 masks so they can be saved for healthcare professionals. Chances are very good your neighbors and the entire community would really benefit from you making them face masks!
Where can I donate cloth masks?
If you’re wondering where to send completed face masks, contact your local hospital to see if they are accepting them. You can also visit https://masksfordocs.com/volunteer to get matched with the right group.
Get my free patterns to make your own easy face masks!
Have more questions? Come on over and ask in our Facebook group — everyone is welcome!
Pam Bryan says
You are a truly, giving, wonderful person. You could have made a fortune selling these patterns but you are giving them away for free. God bless and keep you. More people could learn by your example. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Pam! I’m happy to share my design with others!
This is a fantastic post! Thank you so much for putting so much into this. AND thank you for the 3 minute video!
Chris Dorman says
For those of us who are scared of our sewing machine (I mean it’s a scary thing… lol) thank you for the no sew option for a facemask. As stated above you could have made some money but you gave this pattern away for free. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Bev Picazo says
I want to make the neck gaiter face mask and I hand sew, do not have a sewing machine. Can you please tell me what stitch I should use or is possible to make this by hand sewing? Thank you for your response.
I love your patterns and sharing them with us.
You can use a running stitch to sew the face masks.
Marilee Botos says
THANK YOU for the veil mask pattern! I have a friend with asthma and I think this is a great alternative to the tighter mask patterns. I was just looking for such a pattern the last 2 days and here you go sending one out! SO grateful that I don’t have to draft it myself!
You’re welcome, Marilee! I hope you enjoy the pattern!
Jennifer Hedlund says
Jennifer – I love your blog and love using its resources all the time. I do have one piece of info that might be helpful to know. There was a study recently put out by Duke Univ. that showed that gaiter masks are actually not effective. https://www.velonews.com/news/duke-study-wearing-neck-gaiter-as-mask-offers-very-little-protection-for-spread-of-coronavirus/. Just thought you might be interested in this.
I did see the study. It’s always great to ready any studies so I always appreciate people sharing them with me. I would note that the study you’re referring to tested one style of a one-layer polyester/spandex gaiter. It tested the droplet count passing through the fabric. You’ll see that my gaiter pattern is two layers of fabric with an optional pocket for a filter, so that would be even more layers. I don’t believe that a thin polyester one-layer gaiter is a fair comparison to the gaiter style mask as I’ve created. A great test for the safety of a gaiter mask is to see if you can blow a candle out with the mask on. If you can blow it out, it probably isn’t enough protection. I would not be able to blow out a candle with my gaiter mask on, but I do test this for myself and suggest people do this with their own masks.