homemade masks

mountainmoma's picture

There are various masks, alot of them cloth, and I have heard that any type will at least cut down about 50-70% of virus and other germs. But, if you need more protection, nursing someone at home who is sick with this, or if the medical personell get so desperate in a few weeks/next month they will take un-verified homemade -- well, if you have any HEPA vacuum bags or can get hold of a few, it would be good to make some of these to have on hand

Here are instructions for making a mask that comes the closest to replacing an N95 mask, so better face fit ( wire over nose) and using a filter fabric. This uses HEPA filter vacuum bags. An "insert" into a cloth mask does not work the same as you can easily end up breathing around it, those are not the same as a mask entirely made of the filter medium.


Mask pattern to cut out here:


Pictures of mask process so you dont have to keep rewatching the You tube:


David Trammel's picture

That's a good video. I've run across quite a few different tutorials so far. Unfortunately my sewing machine is on the fritz.

mountainmoma's picture

You could easily hand sew this. Do a back stitch to keep stitching tight, if you can, but if not, just do a regular running stitch, take your time and keep stitches relatively small, like your sewing machine would do -- and she calls for 2 rows of stitching, so you will also do 2 rows.

If you dont have a hot glue gun, use any glue and wait for it to dry, or super glue. Any wire you might have that can be bent and formed, bread bag ties would work

A lot of people here were working on making cloth masks for first responders and hospital workers, but the hospitals politely refused them, but seem to be willing to take those made by three-d printers out of plastic with the breathing hole filled with a square of filter paper. The hospitals instead suggested that these cloth masks would be good for use in nursing homes. ?????

It looks to me like the filter bag one would be a one time only use. These plastic ones are reusable and presumably you can sanitize them after each use and of course pop in a new piece of filter material. While the cloth ones may not be able to filter out all the virus, they could be autoclaved after each use as they use to be in the past. Maybe some fabric manufacturer needs to produce a suitable fabric that can be reused. I was wondering about non-adhesive inter-facing since most disposable masks seem to be made out of some similar material.

lathechuck's picture

To "save face" (so to speak), the CDC is considering advising the general public to keep avoiding "face masks" (e.g. N95 or surgicals), but go ahead and tie on a "face covering" when in public. What is a "face covering"? It's what everyone else is calling a DIY face mask! I've sewn two (and intend to do more), using the "Fu" pattern found at freesewing.org. Pay particular attention to getting the shape of the bit that covers the nose right: a short straight line, then a curved break down to the chin cover. If the nose line is curved, I found the mask to slip down to hang from the tip of my nose, and not make a good seal under my eyes.
Now that the fabric stores are (I assume) closed, and perhaps the highways, too, you might want to look for an old cotton flannel shirt to salvage some fabric from. Just eye-balling it, I think we should be able to get one mask from each sleeve, at least one each from the front and back, and have enough 15"x1" scrap material to make a few ties (maybe not the 16 needed for 4 masks, though.)
Be sure to wash your mask frequently, to be sure that unanticipated microbes don't colonize the warm, moist environment. Nightly washing seems about right to me. (I agitate mine in a quart jar of soapy water, rinse, and hang until dry.) You might need two, to use on alternate days.

David Trammel's picture

I got alerted to this article

Using blue shop towels in homemade face masks can filter particles 2x to 3x better than cotton, 3 clothing designers discover after testing dozens of fabrics

Looks like the best filter material is 2 layers of a polyester hydro knit, typically found in higher end shop towels.

"Inserting two of these towels into an ordinary cotton mask brought filtration up to 93% of particles as small as 0.3 microns, the smallest their machine could test. Meanwhile, the cotton masks filtered 60% of particles at best in their tests, Schempf said.

Polyester hydro knit towels are readily available at hardware and automotive stores. The two brands they tested were ToolBox's shop towel and ZEP's industrial blue towel. Interestingly, Scott's pro shop towels, which are also made with a hydro knit fabric, didn't work as well, Schempf said. The team is continuing to test other brands."

The Toolbox and ZEP towels are very hard to find, so you might have to look for others. I have some WypAll brand towels coming from Amazon and some Kimberly Clark brand as well. Hopefully they ship.

I work with a local animal adoption and shelter group here in St Louis. We're getting very low on N95 masks, which I had from previous preparations and have been donating them to our volunteers. I have some cotton ones coming from a DIY mask making group and plan on using these towels as the filter insert.

I believe you can wash and reuse these filters 3-5 times per the Suay Sewing tests.

I've been making masks using the Instructables pattern earlier linked to on this site.
The directions are TERRIBLE but the fit of the mask is actually quite good.
The best part is it allows for a narrow channel just below the top-stitched upper edge to hold a piece of wire.
I've been using a heavy-gauge (it's about 1/8 inch thick) copper wire. It's bendable but it holds it's shape.
I cut a four (4) inch long piece and bend back the ends so it won't come out. Four inches allows a better fit over the nose.
Use COPPER wire because it won't rust. Heavier gauge aluminum might also work.

I am using a bendable piece called a "tin tie". You would recognize them as the fastener on a bag of coffee. I think they are steel wires encased in a vinyl coating. You can sew it into the nose area of the mask in a channel and then bend comfortably around the nose and hold it's shape. I ordered a bunch online, but if you salvage from your coffee bags, you can make one or two as needed.

I was going to use pipe cleaners (or craft chenille) as I had some on hand. At that point, Younger Son produced some of his vast stash of repurposed copper wire. This is about 1/16th of an inch thick; bendy yet will hold it's shape. It's a bit thinner than the thickness of coat-hanger wire (which will rust).

Thinner wire bends too easily and thicker wire is harder to work with.

I don't know that I would want to use anything steel as it will rust when the mask is washed. Aluminum wire should wash as well as the copper.

You'll have to see what happens!

My masks can be hand-washed and line-dried. I don't think I'll wash them in the washer even inside a mesh bag.
I also make the elastic ear wraps so that the elastic can be easily replaced when it eventually stretches out of shape.

I have washed my masks several times now in the washer and so far, I don't see any sign of rust. There is so little of the steel wire that shows at the cut ends of the tin ties that I don't think it will be an issue. I had to purchase these, so you are somewhat ahead by using an existing stash of copper wire.

It must be the vinyl coating on your wires. As long as it doesn't crack, you'll be fine.
Washability is always one of my top concerns, along with longevity and being able to repair an item.

I except that face masks will become part of everyday life for years to come.
I don't want to have to open up any of those tiny seams making the wire channel in order to remove the wire.

That's the reason I'm NOT sewing in the ear elastics.
I run my elastic through a channel on each side of the shaped mask. It's tied so it can be tightened by the user if needed. Running the elastic through the channel will also allow it to be replaced easily when the elastic stretches out of shape.

How do you handle your elastic?
And did you wash your masks loose or did you wash them in a lingerie bag?

I don't use elastic in my masks, just a 1/4 inch cotton twill tape for ties. I thought elastic would be a bigger pain in the behind then tie would be. Around here, some health workers are complaining of the elastic in medical masks rubbing behind their ears raw and bleeding. To check that they have made head bands that have buttons sew just above or just behind the ears on the headband and the elastic gets looped over those buttons.

I washed my masks with the regular hot load (no lingerie bag) and while the tin tie got somewhat bunched up, it was easy to straighten them out and they didn't seem damaged in any way. I have also used my steamer to sanitize them as it produces live steam that is plenty hot to kill viruses. While I haven't tried it, I would think you could run them through a period of "cooking" in a pressure canner. They after all are like autoclaves. Also, I have boiled my masks. Worked fine and of course I air dry them. In the sun if I get my poop in a group and wash in the morning of a sunny day.

I hadn't thought of using ties or buttons. I wear glasses (as does everyone in my household) and I knew I didn't want a knot or thickness anywhere around the earpiece.

Your users must be wearing the masks much longer than we do! We're not out and about so our masks only get used for short periods of time.

Thanks for the washing tips.
I'm sure we'll all be wearing masks for years to come.
Covid-19 isn't going to go away. It will, I think, develop an annual season like the flu. Some years will be worse than others. Or not. We'll all know in five years time what it will do.

Here is how mine looks and how I tie it around my head. Fits nice and snug.

add photo: 

Thanks for the photo!
Very stylish.