COVID-19 pandemic has left countries struggling to get basic medical supplies including masks. A dearth in this area has created a necessity for homemade masks. If you are wondering how to make a face mask at home, we would guide you. But if you have any dilemma ‘to mask or not to mask’ let’s clear that off first.
The Need to Wear a Mask
The scientific body has declared that we can fight the COVID-19 virus by washing hands quite often, keeping social distance and avoiding contact with positive cases. The problem occurs when you step out of your home to public places whether for work or getting supplies. Since maintaining a safe distance may not always be possible and some non-symptomatic patients may be difficult to identify, a mask can be the only safety measure.
At first, the instruction from WHO was that the surgical masks and the N95 masks are mandatory for frontline health workers and patients, so, WHO discouraged the common public from wearing a mask unless they are unwell. Since the other measures have been incapable of containing the spread of the disease, both WHO and the CDC have reconsidered their stance.
Masking in Singapore
Passengers in a bus wearing surgical masks in Singapore | Image: iStock
Before community spread in Singapore, the instruction of limited use of masks by WHO was followed. But the scenario in Singapore has changed. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has advised the use of masks to protect oneself as well as others from the spread through droplets. Some of the latest guidelines from the Ministry of Health (MOH) are:
- Staying at home and only go out when to get essential good and services
- Avoiding contact with anyone other than immediate family within the same household
- Wearing a reusable mask when out or in contact with outsiders
- Washing and drying the reusable masks after every use
Which Type of Mask to Wear?
The N95 respirators and the surgical masks are the most effective in controlling the infection. But they are not reusable. Also, they are in short supply with huge global demand. Thus, WHO recommends these be reserved for health workers and patients. Reused surgical masks become less effective. They can trigger problems if they are damp or contaminated.
Cloth and paper masks are less effective than N95, but having some mask is better than not having anything on. CDC recommends cloth masks with multiple fabric layers yet allowing breathable airflow. Cloth face-coverings must fit the contours of the jaw and side of the face, snugly.
Having said all these, knowing how to make a face mask at home, with easily available materials, is a good option. There are many things in your home that can act as effective filters. You do not need to venture out of your house to get material.
Tips on How to Make a Face Mask at Home
There are various methods of making face masks at home. You may make these to fit the face sizes of your kids, get them to join in the process, explain the need and the process you are going to take and encourage their opinion. During this stay-home period, this can be a family activity as well as a time to bond. Here are a few options.
1. If you have a sewing machine and elastic bands or hair ties. You will need a cotton fabric or dishcloth or microfibre cloth.
- Cut two rectangles of 12 inches by 6 inches for adults and 11 inches by 5 inches for kids.
- Sew the layers together and seal the edges by sewing.
- Place the elastic band or hair tie on the side edge and fold the side edge over it, so that the elastic
- stays inside the fold.
- Now sew this edge to keep the arrangement intact.
- Do the same on the other side.
- Your basic face mask is ready.
2. If you have a sewing machine, enough fabric and can download a face mask template.
- Download the template and cut pieces of paper to show the face cover, mouth cover and cheek covers.
- Follow instructions and cut the fabric according to the template.
- Stitch the pieces as instructed and seal the edges.
- Sew the V on top of the face cover fabric together to make space for the nose.
- Stitch the layers together from top and bottom.
- Sew the elastic ties on the sides.
- This will leave you with a space between the layers that you can reach from the gap on the sides.
- This allows you to place a paper towel or any other filter in the middle to make the mask more effective.
3. If you don’t have a sewing machine. You will need a good quality T-shirt, paper towel and a scissor.
- Cut the T-shirt horizontally from below the armpits.
- Cut off horizontally from one end of the shoulder to the other end, below the neckline.
- Leave one-inch along the stitched seam on the underside of the sleeve and one-inch at the top,
- along the horizontal cut.
- Mark the remaining part of the sleeves in U-shape rotated 90 degrees clockwise and anti-
- Now cut-off this remaining sleeves in U-shape.
- You will end up with a rectangular double-layered fabric mask with strings attached.
- Place a paper towel between the layers, secure with safety pins and your no-sew mask is ready.
4. If you don’t have a sewing machine but have a HEPA filter. You will need two elastic bands, twist tie and a scissor.
- Lay down the filter and remove the cardboard tab.
- Download and trace the template (in the shape of B) on the filter.
- Cut outside the lines and cut-off excess fold from the sealed edge.
- Mark pleating points according to the template.
- Place the tie in the marked tab area and fold over.
- Staple to close.
- Fold in half lengthwise and pinch the pleat-points.
- Bring the folded pleat-points together and staple them.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Staple around edges to seal.
- Staple the elastic bands on both sides.
You may use HEPA filters to cut and stitch surgical masks. You may even add an inner layer of PM2.5 filter if you can get one. Folding a scarf lengthwise into four layers, folding the sides over two hair ties and adjusting one inner fold inside the other, can give you a simple multi-layered face mask.
Arm yourself with whichever mask you find convenient but wear one every time you leave home or encounter any outsider.