How To Make A Face Mask From A T-Shirt, Bandana Or Cloth

Masks that can protect those around you from COVID-19 can be made with no sewing required.
DIY cloth face masks are shown here.
DIY cloth face masks are shown here.

To mask or not to mask? It’s a question that’s been on Canadians’ minds as the COVID-19 pandemic has ramped up here and around the world. Many health officials have said they aren’t necessary, while some countries have moved to formally require mask use for people out in public.

Now, we have an answer here in Canada — sort of.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formally recommended masks as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Then, on Monday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam recommended Canadians wear “non-medical” masks to protect people around them.

Don’t buy PPE

“The special advisory committee on COVID-19 has come to a consensus that wearing a non-medical mask even if you have no symptoms is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you,” she said.

She stressed that a mask isn’t there to necessarily protect you, it’s to protect asymptomatic people from unintentionally spreading droplets to those around them.

But, before you rush to stock up on surgical masks, remember that PPE (personal protective equipment) is in short supply, and you can make a face covering at home.

So, how do you actually make your own mask? Turns out it’s a lot easier than you think. Here are three different masks you can make yourself, for free, with materials you probably already own.

Sewing machine method

Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto released simple instructions for a two-ply, pleated mask you can make quickly and easily with a sewing machine.

What you need:

  • standard sewing supplies (sewing machine, measuring tape, etc.)
  • dark-coloured polyester fabric for the outside of the mask (this could be substituted with 100% cotton if polyester is not available)
  • light-coloured 100% cotton for the part of the mask that goes against the skin
  • elastic

The hospital is challenging local residents to collectively sew 1,000 homemade masks a week to both wear themselves and to donate to the hospital for visitors to wear.

Here’s the step-by-step guide to making a mask with a sewing machine.

Instructions on how to make a cloth mask with a sewing machine.
Instructions on how to make a cloth mask with a sewing machine.

There are various techniques for sewing a cloth mask at home using a machine, so pick what works best for you. And don’t be afraid to have fun with your pattern choice!

No-sew bandana/cloth with a filter

Don’t have a sewing machine, or don’t know how to sew? Organizations like the CDC are promoting a super-simple bandana method for making a homemade mask.

What you need:

  • bandana (or square cotton cloth approximately 20”x20”)
  • coffee filter
  • rubber bands (or hair ties)
  • scissors (if you are cutting your own cloth)

Here’s the step-by-step guide to making a mask out of a bandana or square piece of cloth.

Instructions on how to make a mask out of a bandana or square cloth.
Instructions on how to make a mask out of a bandana or square cloth.

Again, there are a few different techniques when it comes to bandana masks, so be sure to find the right one for you.

No-sew T-shirt

Don’t have a bandana or square piece of cloth lying around? Chances are you have an old T-shirt you don’t need. The CDC also said you can easily make a homemade mask from a cotton T-shirt, with no sewing required.

What you need:

  • T-shirt
  • scissors
Instructions on how to make a face mask out of a T-shirt.
Instructions on how to make a face mask out of a T-shirt.

How to take care of your mask — and you:

No matter how you make your mask, be sure that it fits snugly onto your face and that you don’t touch the front of it once you start wearing it.

Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after putting on and taking off your mask. Also, be mindful of where you put it — stuffing a clean mask into your purse to go to the grocery store probably isn’t the best idea.

And experts say to think of your mask like underwear — wash it before and after each use, because respiratory droplets can accumulate. Make extras if you can, so you always have a fresh one available for when you go out.

So, go forth and get crafty! And remember: Tam stressed that mask-wearing Canadians should not ease up on other social distancing measures though. Keep your six feet of distance and stay home whenever possible — even if you make one of these DIY masks.

Also on HuffPost: