Non-medical masks: Sew and no-sew instructions

How to make your own non-medical mask to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

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Fabric and filters

Fabric

Non-medical masks should be made of at least 2 layers of a tightly woven fabric. A tightly woven fabric will block light if you hold it up to a window. Examples of tightly woven fabric include:

It may be helpful to use differently coloured or patterned fabrics for each side of the mask. This makes it easier to identify which side faces your mouth and which side is out.

Non-medical masks should also include:

Filters

Filters or filter material offer increased protection against COVID-19 by trapping smaller infectious respiratory particles. You can buy disposable mask filters or make your own using:

A filter fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene, can be integrated as the middle layer of a non-medical mask. Different types of non-woven polypropylene are available.

Example of filter layers

filter layers
Meltblown polypropylene

This fabric is used to make personal protective equipment for health care settings, and may not always be readily available.

Spunbond polypropylene

This fabric is more widely available as a craft fabric, or as the interfacing material often used in sewing. It’s also used to make reusable fabric-like shopping bags. These materials can be repurposed as a filter fabric for non-medical masks.

Some reusable shopping bags are waterproofed or coated with plastic, and should not be used as filter fabric. They don’t allow for easy breathability.

Spunlace polypropylene

This fabric is commonly used to make face or baby wipes. This can be used as a filter after rinsing with water and drying it thoroughly.

Many non-medical masks may already include a pocket for a disposable mask filter. If your mask doesn’t include a filter pocket, one can be easily added.

There are some household cleaning or filter products made of polypropylene that shouldn’t be used as filters for non-medical masks. Do not use the following materials to make filters:

Filters should not interfere with your breathing. Plastic films or pieces of non-breathable plastic are not a suitable filter material.

Non-medical masks made with non-woven filter fabrics can be washed multiple times.

Disposable filters should be changed daily or as directed by the manufacturer and should be removed from the mask before washing.

Sew method

Materials

Instructions

Step 1.

Cut out two 25.5 cm by 15 cm (10 in by 6 in) rectangles of tightly woven cotton fabric. Cut out one 25.5 cm by 15 cm (10 in by 6 in) rectangle of non-woven polypropylene fabric. Place the rectangle of non-woven polypropylene fabric between the 2 rectangles of tightly woven cotton fabric. You'll sew the mask as if it was a single piece of fabric.

Step 2.

Fold over the long sides 0.6 cm (1/4 in) and stitch down. Then fold the short sides over 1.2 cm (1/2 in) and stitch down.


Step 3.

Run a 15 cm (6 in) length of 0.3 cm (1/8 in) wide elastic through the wider hem on each side of the mask. These will be the ear loops. Use a large needle or a bobby pin to thread it through. Tie the ends tight.

Use hair ties or elastic headbands if you don't have elastic. If you only have string, you can make the ties longer and tie the mask behind your head.

Step 4.

Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the mask on the elastic and adjust so it fits your face. Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping.

Adding a filter pocket

Materials

Instructions

When creating your own filter pocket, use existing seams to maintain the integrity of your mask.

Step 1.

Fold 0.6 cm (1/4 in) seams along all sides of the fabric and pin in place. These will become the seams. If your fabric is patterned or textured, make sure the seams fold over the back.

Step 2.

Sew along the short edges to make a finished seam.

Step 3.

Pin your pocket fabric to the back of your mask. Make sure that the seams are inside the mask and pocket, and not on the side your face will touch.

Step 4.

Sew along the 2 long sides, as close to the existing seams of the mask as possible. This will fix the pocket material to your mask and leave openings on either side through which you can insert disposable filters.

No-sew method using a T-shirt

Materials

Step 1.

Cut the bottom off a T-shirt (front and back), measuring about 18 to 20 cm (7 in to 8 in) from the bottom. The front and back of the T-shirt fabric should be thick enough that you can't see light through it.

For this step and the next steps, you may need to adjust your cut measurements based on the size of the T-shirt you're using.

Step 2.

With this fabric, make 2 horizontal cuts of 20 cm (8 in), on the top and bottom. Keep at least a 1 cm (0.4 in) width between your cuts and the top and bottom edges of the fabric.

Step 3.

Cut out a panel of 5 cm (2 in) from the larger piece of fabric by making a vertical cut. Discard the cut fabric. This will leave you with a C-shape.

Step 4.

Snip the 2 pieces of fabric at the crease. This will give you a top and bottom set of tie strings. Now you have 4 strings.

Step 5.

Open your fabric up, so that it lies flat. Place your filter in the centre of the mask.

Step 6.

Fold the right-hand flap created between the tie strings in half horizontally, towards the centre of the mask. The edge of the fabric will overlap the centre crease.

Step 7.

Repeat Step 6 on the left-hand side, folding the fabric over each other. You'll now have a mask with 3 layers of fabric and a disposable filter.

Step 8.

Tie one set of strings around your neck, and the other set over the top of your head. The strings that attach over the top of your head will run along your cheeks and above your ears.

No-sew method using a fabric square

Materials

Instructions

Throughout this process, you may need to adjust your folds to make sure your mask will cover your nose, mouth and chin.

Step 1.

Fold the fabric square in half.

Step 2.

Place your filter in the centre of the folded square. Fold the top of the fabric down over the filter. Then fold the bottom of the fabric up over the filter.

Step 3.

Insert the folded cloth into 2 rubber bands or hair ties, about 15 cm (6 in) apart.

Step 4.

Fold sides to the middle and tuck around the bands or hair ties.

Step 5.

Pull the bands or hair ties around your ears.

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