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Make Your Own Mask: DIY No-sew 2 minute and high quality sewn HEPA options

Ignore the mixed, junk messaging, if the WHO tells you not to wear a mask, that’s President Xi speaking. It’s a reason to wear one. We should all be wearing masks in public. It may be the cheapest way to reduce the R0, and get us out of coronavirus-jail fast.

  1. Countries which wear masks have lower transmission. Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea. UPDATE: Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer says Australians shouldn’t use masks because they are not clever enough to use them properly or something like that. Seriously.  Don’t wait for bureaucrats to get the message right.
  2. It protects other people from those who don’t even have symptoms who are shedding virus.
  3. It protects you: It reduces your chance of breathing in droplets of virus that float in the air. Viruses are tiny, but studies show that masks work, even a thin surgical mask prevented nearly 3 out 4 parents from catching influenza from their infected children. The N95 style are better but any mask is better than nothing.
  4. There are no guarantees –– the virus can sneak in the side, and still enter through your eyes (wear glasses to reduce at least to stop you touching your eyes). Goggles are better.
  5. Take it off very carefully. Assume the front is contaminated. Don’t touch the front, hold it by the straps, and take off the bottom strap first. Let the mask fall forward. Be wary of shaking loose particles and then breathing them in. Think about where you will put it before you take it off and do it there. Here are short CDC instructions on mask use. The CDC video on donning and doffing. There are longer CDC instructions on fitting N95 masks.  Wash hands before, after, and every ten minutes for the rest of the year. Don’t get OCD. 😉
  6. To reuse: Boil cloth masks for 5 minutes to sterilize, or steam it. If it can’t be washed, hang outside in the sun for 48 hours, or leave it on a hot car dashboard.

Survival times of Coronavirus are shorter on cardboard and material compared to hard surfaces. I’m guessing porous material (like paper, card or cotton) dry and dehydrate the virus. For masks, the word is that the best material to use (apart from a HEPA filter) is a tight weave cotton sheet (a high thread count) — which might be better than synthetic material because of its ability to absorb water.

DIY: No sewing, disposable paper mask, suggested by Hong Kong’s consumer council

MATERIALS:  Paper towels, tissue paper, rubber bands, masking tape, hole punch, binder clips aka “bulldog clips”, (plus glasses, wire and a clear plastic file folder if you want to make a face shield!)


DIY: Five minute masks, no-sew, bed sheet, safety pin style.

Skip to 2:20 for instructions. A paper clip can be threaded into the pre-stitched hems of a bed sheet. Uses 13 inch x 5 inch pieces. Washable as long as the clips don’t rust.

DIY: Just fold it — the ultra simple Japanese style

This Japanese no-sew mask uses something that looks like a tea towel or handkerchief. It can be done with a bandana.

MATERIALS: Cotton tea towel, plus two elastic bands. 2 mins — plus fiddling to get it the right length to fit.

Best quality, sewn mask with HEPA filter

If you can sew, this is what Dr. Ryan Southworth is asking home handy-people to make for use on the front line.  If you don’t have a machine, this could still be hand sewn. (It’s not impossible. I still have a hand sewn item my grandmother made which I keep just because of the incredibly fine stitching. Once upon a time, not so long ago, it’s all people could do.)

MATERIALS: Hepa vacuum cleaner bags, Hot glue, pipe cleaners, elastic, thread, scissors.


This is another style designed by a lab technician using hot glue, or heat sealing, and good quality filters. These are professional quality disposable masks.

For serious sewing types — the Olsen Mask is designed for hospital use: See the Youtube from UnityPoint Health, Cedar Rapids. The Olsen Mask is meant as a backup for frontline teams, and has complete patterns online. The hospital will provide materials. They will be reusable and washable.

Then there are people who are even using bra cups: Eg this woman.

OK, so we look weird in the shops. Think how relaxing it will be at home for the next two weeks where you don’t have to wonder if every dry cough is the start of something bad.

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