dust masks for woodworking

COVID-19: the rules for making “homemade” mask

With France and other countries changing their mantra on whether you should or should not wear a face mask. Obtaining a face mask or respirator is proving to be very difficult as the world supply diminishes. The lack of supply has pushed some creative people into making their own face masks. As a worker who uses respirators on a daily basis, I understand the practical implications of making your own face masks.   Different materials and methods of making face masks for capturing the virus are not available to us. We have to accept that there is not practical respirator that can 100% capture a virus. Though this is a depressing thought homemade face covering can still help. The reason we should wear a face-covering of any type is that you can help prevent the spread of the virus. The virus is transmitted to others via our expelled fluids in the form of sneezes, coughs, or just talking. These may include:

  • water droplets
  • vapour
  • aerosol

You can learn all about face masks and their effectiveness here

About COVID-19

Viruses, in general, are very small and needs filtration of fewer than 0.1 microns for it to be trapped in the filter medium, or does it? I will explain this within this tutorial but first, you need to understand the mechanics behind this Coronavirus if you are to successfully make an effective mask.

Coronavirus FAQ

Here I will explain a few simple facts about the disease and how it is spread

What is Coronavirus?

The disease Coronavirus is the infection which the NOVEL COVID-19 manifests itself in the body. This new virus causes severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This is a disease was first recorded in China in 2019.

coronavirus covid-19 pandemic

Morphology of coronaviruses; club-shaped viral spike peplomers, coloured red, create the look of a corona standing from the virion if imaged with an electron microscope. Wikipedia

How is COVID-19 Transmitted?

The most common and highest risk of transmitting COV to the human body is via water droplet. These water droplets are distributed by an infected individual who is showing symptoms or a carrier who is not. Lower risk transmission is in the cycle: 

  1. mouth to hand or surface
  2. surface to hand or mouth.

Remember the most important safety measure is to #stayathome and wash your hands.

Can a FaceMask help prevent coronavirus?

This question is being asked in every country but each country seems to have differing advice for instance: the UK says no with the mantra “we are following the science” and the South Korea and China citizens are wearing them as though they always have and that is probably so. I feel you need to understand the reasoning of why you should wear a mask. It is widely thought (apart from the UK) that the practice of wearing a facemask can protect you from Coronavirus. I am a little uncomfortable with this new mentality.

Update 02/05/2020: Boris Johnson has stated that they will be re-evaluating their stance on face masks

Why is wearing a face mask important?

Remember a face mask is predominately for the protection of others in case you are carrying the virus. If you wear a face mask you might still catch the virus but you will be less likely to spread it to other thus curbing the spread of COVID-19

Will a Face mask protect me?

Yes, it is now considered that a face mask can help reduce the risk of contracting Coronavirus. But you still must carry out the simple hygiene advice as it is not an either-or.  

Are you confused about Respirators Versus Face masks? Check out our article on what the face mask standards mean.

Coughs and Sneezes spread Diseases!

The average sneeze or cough can send around 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to over 75 miles per hour. This is why during the Coronavirus outbreak you should wear a face mask.

How to make a face mask?

Making your own facemask is not a bad idea but soon will be necessary as the availability to purchase N95 N100, P1 P2 or FFP2 FFP3 will be almost impossible for citizens.  So here is some easy to follow instructions to make your own cloth surgical type masks. This concept is really just the basis of design but if you read the rest of this blog you will learn more details that you could incorporate into your mask. 

Masks – Elastic/Cording Ear Loops


  • The fabric is of your choice pre-washed and non-toxic. Cut to 9” X 6” (Adult) or 7 ½” X 5” (Child).
  • Filter medium
  • Elastic Rope elastic, 1/8” (3mm )wide flat elastic, or beading cord elastic.
  • Two buttons for a comfy retainer

Preparation for Ear Loops

  • Earloops: 7″ long X2. If using flat elastic sew it to the mask do not tie it as it will come undone unlike round elastic.


For lacing or cord, follow same steps, substituting item for elastic.

  1. Put right sides of the cotton fabric together (use 2 pieces). Be sure that any fabric design is placed horizontally!
  2. Cut the fabric in one of two sizes: 9” X 6” (Adult) or 7 ½” X 5” (Child).
  3. Starting at the centre of the bottom edge, sew to the first corner, then stop. Sew the elastic with the edge out into the corner. A few stitches forward and back will hold this.
  4. Sew to the second corner, stop, and bring the other end of the same elastic to the corner and sew a few stitches forward and back.
  5. Now sew across the top of the mask to the third corner, then stop. Again, sew one end of a piece of elastic with the edge out into the corner.
  6. Sew to the fourth corner, stop, then sew in the other end of the same piece of elastic.
  7. Sew across the bottom, leaving about 1 ½ – 2” open. Stop, cut the thread. Turn inside out.
  8. Pin (evenly spaced) 3 tucks on each side of the mask. Make sure the tucks are in the same direction.
  9. Sew around the edge of the mask twice (making sure to close the opening left at the bottom of the mask).
  10. Now you should be protected but do not take unnecessary risks

Will a homemade face mask protect me from Coronavirus?

Yes, you can make a face mask but you need to understand that it’s effectiveness relies on a good fit and the filter medium used.

Will a homemade face mask protect others from me?

This is the most important reason to wear a face mask and together is we can reduce the risk of spreading the virus thus shortening the period of lockdown 

Materials for making a facemask

I have seen so many so-called experts with no Expertise Authoritativeness or Trustworthiness (EAT for short) suggesting some frankly dangerous filter mediums that could contain carcinogens. 

You will need to use a washable material

Making face masks doesn’t take long but you will want to be able to wash it. So you need a material that withstands high temperatures.

Bad face mask filter suggestions

  • HEPA vac bags (contains glass fibre and chemicals)
  • Woven fabrics (cotton sheet can suffice in layers of three or more)
  • Scarves (Thank you, Dr Donald) 

Good face mask filter suggestions

  • Microfibre (washable)
  • Felts  (washable)
  • Cotton wadding  (washable)
  • Natural fibres (washable)
  • Unprinted fabrics (washable)
  • Coffee filters (non-washable)
  • Filter paper (non-washable)

What kind of material is best for these masks?

Most face masks you buy use a filter medium which contains mixed orientated fibres. For instance, most face masks are made from bleached or unbleached paper pulp. The fibres are not inline but when pressed and dried into a filter mask they are in all directions. This multi-direction fibre has very small gaps of around 0.3 micron which captures particles, yet we can still breath through it. 

Why are Woven fabrics such as bed sheet a poor filter?

Woven fabrics are generally geometric so the thread is laid in a uniform fashion. This creates holes larger than found in commercially available face masks. This is not to say that a woven weave is not filtering some of the particles or even the virus but that it would be advisable to make a mask from multiple layers.  

Whatever you choose the most important fact is that you need to be sure that the filter and mask itself does not contain toxins. 

Can I use a Pretty Fabric Print?

I would not, some print dyes contain are toxic. Remember many of the fabrics we wear come from China or India and they are notorious at not abiding by international health standards. Do not assume it is safe!

Homemade face mask tutorial as shared by the CDC

Face mask step by step

How to Wear a Face Mask?

What is the point of wearing a face mask if you don’t wear it correctly? Just a simple fact. Today I went to the store and to my dismay it seems that the staff are taking precautions or are they? 

  • Surgical style masks are worn incorrectly
  • Nose not covered
  • Gaps all around
  • N95 face mask straps so loose that I could see their lips!

lady wearing home made mask 01

In this picture, you can see the face mask is over the nose but not on the bridge. If this lady is to sneeze the mask will just fold and allow possible COVID to escape.

lady wearing DIY mask

This lady is not even wearing the mask over the nose at all so frankly what is the point of wearing a face mask? She may of decided it was not possible for her to wear this type of face mask because she is a glass wearer.

In France I Found

Aldi, no masks were worn or checkout cleaned

Super U express, Makeshift screen on tills masks worn but not by the meat counter

Intermarche, masks are worn but poor fit.

If the face mask is to be effective it must be worn correctly, covering the mouth and nose. Ideally, the straps need to be tight enough so no there are no gaps.

Some information has been sourced from

Official COVID information sites

CDC (Centre for Disease Control)

WHO (World Health Organisation)

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