Each and every one of us has a vital role to play in stopping the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world. Considering the virus can be transmitted from person to person through a cough, sneeze, talking, or even just vapor (breath), all you really have to do is go outside to a public area to potentially contract the sickness. The American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Albert Rizzo, M.D. stated in an email that "early reports show that the virus can live in droplets in the air for up to one to three hours after an infected individual has left an area."
There is no substitute for washing your hands and social distancing by staying at home. Those are the most effective ways to keep from getting yourself and those around you sick. However, it's impossible for anyone to go weeks on end without actually leaving their house. Whether you need to run to the grocery store to stock up on food and household essentials or you're picking up dinner at a local restaurant to take back home, it's important to protect yourself and others when you go out in public. As of this past week, the CDC now recommends citizens wear a face covering or face mask when leaving their homes.
With essential supplies running low all over the world, manufactured N95 respirator masks are being directed to hospitals and health care workers rather than for consumer use. This doesn't mean you should simply go without. There are still some places to buy face masks intended for citizen use, but if you're reading this and they're out of stock at the moment, creating your own face covering is simple and takes just a few minutes to accomplish. While there are several methods of going about making your own, we'll get into two of the most popular options below.
How to make a face mask without sewing
The easiest way to make your own face covering requires the following materials:
- Bandana (or square cotton cloth approximately 20 inches by 20 inches)
- Rubber bands (or hair ties)
- Coffee filter
- Scissors (if you're cutting a cloth to size)
- To begin, cut your coffee filter into two pieces as shown in the photo above. If you have no access to coffee filters and can't find any to buy, you can skip this step and continue with the next. Any face covering is better than nothing.
- Next, take your square cloth and fold it in half. This cloth can be either a bandana or an old shirt cut to the recommended size of 20 inches by 20 inches, though tightly-woven cotton is the best material to use. The most important piece here is that the cloth should be made of cotton.
- Place the piece of coffee filter you've cut in step one onto the center of the cloth. Fold the bottom of your cloth up to meet the filter and fold the top of the cloth down to the filter. Continue to fold the bottom portion up over the coffee filter and fold the top portion down until it matches the image under Step 4.
- Once you've reached this step, take your two rubber bands or hairties and slide the cloth between the center of them. Fold the two ends of the cloth over the bands until the ends meet in the middle.
- Now you can place the covering over your face by placing the bands over your ears. To wear it properly, you'll want to have the covering completely over your nose and extending below your chin. When removing the mask, make sure to take it off from the back bands. Do not touch the front of the mask and if you need to adjust it, make sure to do so before you leave your home or the privacy of your vehicle. It's important to not remove the mask while in public and to throw it in your washing machine as soon as you arrive home for later re-use.
You can also follow the steps in the video below for advice on how to quickly make a face covering as recommended by the CDC.
How to make a face mask that requires sewing
This method requires a bit more know-how to accomplish, as well as a few tools you might not readily have available at home. The items you'll need include:
- Two 10-inch by 6-inch rectangles of cotton fabric
- Two 6-inch pieces of elastic (or rubber bands, string, cloth strips, or hair ties)
- Needle and thread (or bobby pin)
- Sewing machine
- Cut your fabric into two pieces each measuring 10 inches by 6 inches. Tightly-woven cotton is preferred, such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets, though any old t-shirt fabric can work if you have no other option. Once they're the right size, place one directly on top of the other.
- Fold the longer sides of your fabric over by 1/4-inch and hem. This includes both the top and bottom of the cloth. Then fold both the short sides of the fabric by 1/2-inch and stitch down. Pull on the elastic so that the knots you've tied are hidden inside the hem of the cloth. Bunch up the sides and adjust the mask so it can completely cover your nose and extend below your chin. Then you can stitch the elastic in place to make sure it doesn't slip around.
- To create the ear loops, take one of the 6-inch pieces of elastic, or a substitute item such as a hair tie or piece of string, and run it through the wider hem on either side of the mask. You can use a bobby pin or a large needle to pull it through. Tie the ends tight, then repeat the step for the other side of the mask so that two ear loops are attached. If you only have string, you may want to make the ties longer and then use another piece of string to tie them together behind your head. Keeping the mask as close and tight to your face as possible is important, though you also need to ensure it's breathable.
- Pull on the elastic so that the knots you've tied are hidden inside the hem of the cloth. Bunch up the sides and adjust the mask so it can completely cover your nose and extend below your chin. Then you can stitch the elastic in place to make sure it doesn't slip around.
When removing the mask, take it off using the back bands. You should not touch the front of the mask. If you need to adjust it, do so before you go into public. Don't remove the mask while in public, and remember to throw it in your washing machine as soon as you arrive home so you can re-use it later.
How does a face mask help?
By using a tight face covering, you're helping to stop the spread of coronavirus every time you go outside. As you likely know by now, you can transmit the virus to others through a sneeze, cough, or a breath even if you're not showing any symptoms of having it yourself. And while your body may be able to handle the virus just fine, many in your community aren't as lucky. The most vital ways to stay healthy during this time include thorough handwashing and social distancing, though wearing a face covering helps to stop the spread of the virus to others who could be more suceptible to illness.
Wearing a face covering helps you even if you're not sick by keeping your mouth and nose blocked from harmful particles in the air. Keeping the mask on also acts as a good reminder to not touch your face. Both of these help to keep you from contracting the virus, though there's no substitution for washing your hands and staying at home. At this time, it's said that the virus can stay in the air as droplets for up to three hours, so even if you're going into a public space where no one is currently around, it might not be as safe as it seems. This is why it's important to wash your hands often, including each time you return home, as well as wear a face covering in public. Above all, stay home when possible. Only leave your home for essential items to keep yourself and those around you safe.
Other face mask tips to keep in mind
Though we went over a few of these tips above, each of them is important enough to emphasize a second time. First of all, remember to put on and adjust your mask before leaving your home or vehicle. You should not do this while in public, nor should you touch the front of the mask. The proper way to wear the mask includes pulling it completely above your nose and below your chin. Only remove the mask once you are home by taking it off from the back bands. Do not touch the front of the mask after it's been used. Toss the mask directly into the washer after use so you do not contaminate anything in your home.