Whereas I may have read too much sci-fi as a child, a face mask seems like the obvious response to a global pandemic. However, there is currently a shortage of N-95 face masks available to healthcare providers and hospital staff. Additionally, good face masks are in high demand. They aren’t cheap at this point. Furthermore, the need will probably continue until there is a vaccine available or the virus runs its course through the population. That means major demand, which makes maintaining a household supply of N-95 masks cost prohibitive for many people.
I have read comments from many folks online snidely dismissing face masks as useless, because they primarily protect others rather than the person wearing the mask. Yes, it is community responsibility that makes it work. I’m not here to explain social skills to folks who are deliberately obtuse.
Whereas a homemade face mask is not as effective as a surgical mask or N95 respirator, experts say they are better than nothing for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. I did some research prior to putting this article together at the beginning of the covid shutdown. There are several DIY face mask suggestions below, then a section about the face mask pattern/option that I chose, which does require basic sewing skills.
Please add your tips/suggestions in the comments field below.
Making a Homemade Mask
You can make a homemade mask, even if you don’t know how to sew. There are numerous household items that filter air particles, reducing exposure to the virus. The best, commonly available fabric is tightly woven, 100% cotton, like denim, bed sheets, and heavyweight shirts. Avoid knits, like t-shirts and bandannas, because they are porous when they stretch. Also, pre-wash fabrics using hot water to kill germs and to pre-shrink the material.
Templates and Patterns
- Face Mask | Pattern 1
- DIY Cloth Face Mask
- EASY STEPS DIY Face Mask| No Sewing Machine
- Top 3 DIY Medical Face Mask Vacuum Bag Filters
Olson Face Mask
After doing some research, I opted for the Olson Face Mask, because it has a slot for a filter. I doubled the face mask portion for an added layer of protection. Olson Face Mask Pattern (pdf download)
I have been using quilting fabric, which is a tightly woven cotton, for the outer mask. I use high thread count sheets for the inner layers. There are numerous options for filters, but I chose the blue shop towels. They are rated highly for blocking micro-particles and inexpensive. I wash the mask, but don’t dry it (often hand-washing with soap). They don’t take long to dry. In total, there are three layers of fabric and the filter. It may not be as good as an N-95, but it is providing some protection for me as well.
For the bridge, I have been using three pipe cleaners, twisted tightly, with the ends taped off to blunt and bind. I use 3/8″ bungee cable for the ties rather than loops around the ears. I don’t like things around my ears. There were some tests and modifications in the process of making the first dozen or so, but, at this point, I am satisfied with the materials and design. No, I’m not making/selling masks.
Additional Covid-19 Resources
- NM DOH COVID-19 hotline: 1-855-600-3453.
- For information on childcare, loss of income, supplies, food – 1-833-551-0518
- State Department of Aging – 1-800-432-2080
- New Mexico Testing Sites
- Covid-19 Resources for Seniors
- Ways to help your community
- New Mexico Shelter in Place order
- School Meals
- New Mexico Out of School Time | Educational Resources
- New Mexico Department of Health
- Announcement: emergency economic relief program
- COVID-19 relief program for New Mexico businesses
- Prevention and Preparedness Resources
- New Mexico Public Education
- Testing & travel guidelines for NM