Making a DIY face mask has become the top stay-home activity during the novel corona virus outbreak whether it’s for your own personal use or to donate to healthcare facilities. The CDC now recommends wearing a face covering any time you go out in public. On top of that, medical face mask for healthcare workers are running dangerously low due to the rapid increase of COVID-19 patients filling up hospitals and the fact that many consumers purchased personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep at home.
Otherwise, healthcare professionals are making requests on social media. MasksForHeroes uses an Instagram account to post PPE requests from healthcare workers. It says some hospitals have given permission to send the requests, but other posts from individual employees may be anonymous. The U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health is also compiling lists of hospitals by state that are accepting homemade masks, including instructions for dropping them off. On top of that, clothing subscription service Wantable will give you a free label to send them your masks, which they will distribute to hospitals and first responders.
The best fabric for homemade masks is a tightly woven
The best fabric for homemade masks is a tightly woven, 100% cotton fabric. Things like bed sheets, curtains, and woven shirts are good options if they’re made entirely out of cotton. If you’re going to donate the masks, we recommend avoiding knit fabrics (e.g. jersey T-shirts) because they create holes when they stretch, which the virus could get through. Make sure to prewash fabrics using hot water to kill germs and to pre-shrink the material, so it doesn’t change shape after healthcare workers wash it themselves.
On top of a sewing machine and fabric, you’ll need a non woven interface for reusable masks to help block out particles, elastic or ties to keep it secure on the face, and a metal piece (like a paper clip) to make it fit snugly around the nose. If you can’t find an interface, you can substitute a non woven product like HVAC filters or coffee filters but remember that these shouldn’t be used for donations if they’re not washable. HEPA vacuum bags are also non woven with good filtration capabilities; just make they don’t contain fiberglass.
Homemade masks technically are not hospital-approved, so some hospitals won’t accept the donations directly. Check with local hospitals in your area to see if they can use your homemade masks and if so, what their policies are for dropping them off. Because this is a rapidly changing situation, hospitals are continuing to update policies.