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To curb the transmission of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently begun to recommend using a cloth face covering when you’re out in public. But why exactly is this?

Several recent studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can be transmitted even when a person who has it doesn’t have symptoms. If you’ve contracted the virus, this can occur when you’re:

  • Presymptomatic: You have the virus but haven’t developed symptoms yet.
  • Asymptomatic: You have the virus but don’t develop symptoms.

There are some simple methods that you can use at home to make your own cloth face mask with a filter. Keep reading to learn how to make, use, and care for a homemade mask and filter.

You’ll need the following materials to sew a face mask with a filter:

  • Cotton fabric: Try to use cotton that’s tightly woven. Some examples include quilting fabric, T-shirt fabric, or high thread-count fabric from pillowcases or sheets.
  • Elastic material: If you don’t have elastic bands, some household elastic items that you can use include rubber bands and hair ties. If you don’t have these on hand, you can also use string or shoelaces.
  • A filter: The CDC does not suggest using a filter, but some people may feel that it offers a little more protection. Coffee filters are readily available in many homes. You may also consider using part of a HEPA vacuum bag or air conditioning filter (look for products without fiberglass). Just to be clear there’s no scientific evidence to support the use of these types of filters.
  • Sewing materials: These include scissors and a sewing machine or needle and thread.

No worries! You can still make a simple cloth face mask with a filter even if you don’t know how to sew. This example uses a bandana, rubber bands, and a coffee filter. Just follow the steps below:

Plan to use your mask when going out into the community, especially if you’re going to be around other people. Some examples of when to wear your mask include when you’re:

  • getting groceries or other necessities
  • going to the pharmacy
  • visiting a healthcare provider

Before you go out in your mask, make sure that it:

  • is properly secured using ear loops or ties
  • has a snug yet comfortable fit
  • allows you to breath without difficulty
  • is made up of at least two layers of fabric

Try to avoid touching your mask while you’re wearing it. If you must touch or adjust your mask while you have it on, be sure to wash your hands immediately afterward.

To remove your mask:

  • Make sure you have clean hands.
  • Remove the mask using the loops or ties. Don’t touch the front
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes during removal.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands after you’ve taken your mask off.

Other important things to remember about face masks

Cloth face coverings are recommended to the public over the use of surgical masks and N95 respirators.

This is because these two types of masks are in limited supply and are needed by healthcare workers and first responders.

Some people shouldn’t wear a face covering. They include:

  • people with breathing problems
  • children under 2 years old
  • individuals who are unconscious or incapacitated
  • those who can’t remove the covering without assistance

Additionally, keep in mind that wearing a cloth face mask isn’t a substitute for physical distancing (aka social distancing) and other preventive measures.

You’ll still need to try to stay at least 6 feet away from others, wash your hands often, and clean high-touch surfaces frequently.

One of the main benefits of wearing a cloth face mask is that it helps protect others. Remember that people who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic can still transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others when they talk, cough, or sneeze.

Wearing a facial covering helps to contain potentially infectious respiratory droplets. That way, you can prevent unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.

But can a homemade face mask also help prevent you from becoming ill with COVID-19?

Let’s examine this further.

A homemade face mask isn’t as effective as other types of masks

A 2008 study compared N95 respirators, surgical masks, and homemade face masks. It was found that N95 respirators provided the most protection from aerosols, and homemade masks provided the least.

But a homemade mask is better than none at all

One 2013 study had 21 participants make a homemade face mask out of a T-shirt. These homemade masks were then compared to surgical masks for their ability to block out bacterial and viral aerosols.

Both types of masks significantly reduced transmission of these aerosols, with surgical masks being more effective.

The researchers concluded that while homemade masks are less effective, wearing one may be more beneficial than wearing none at all.

It’s important to clean your cloth face mask after each use. This can be done by using the gentle cycle on your washing machine or carefully washing by hand using warm, soapy water.

After washing, dry your mask in your dryer on high heat. If you don’t have a dryer, you can hang your mask up to dry.

Make sure that you remove and dispose of the filter before washing your mask.

After your mask has completely dried, you can place a new filter into it. Anytime the filter gets wet from your reparations, dispose of it and wash the mask.

It’s now recommended that you use a cloth face covering when you’re out in public to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

This is because it’s been found that people without symptoms can still transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others.

You can make a simple cloth face mask with or without a filter at home using common household materials, such as T-shirts, rubber bands, and coffee filters. You can even make a mask without knowing how to sew.

Always be sure that your homemade mask fits snugly but doesn’t hamper your breathing.

Remember that homemade cloth face masks should be washed and have their filter replaced after each use or if they become wet. If you find that a mask is damaged, replace it.