As the world begins to adapt to the ‘new normal’ following the coronavirus pandemic, the many restrictive global lockdown measures are slowly relaxing. However, despite the lockdown beginning to be lifted it is important to remember that the COVID-19 virus has not disappeared and we should still be doing everything we can to reduce the spread of the deadly disease.
Alongside practising regular hygiene, such as washing our hands and sanitising surfaces regularly, it is also important to wear a face mask whenever you are going out in public. A mask is not designed to protect you as the wearer, but instead to stop you unwittingly passing the disease on and protect those around you. COVID-19 is asymptomatic, meaning not everyone who has the virus will be displaying symptoms, so wearing a mask prevents the spread by containing the infected particles.
Although initially, reports on the benefits of wearing a face mask were mixed, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America have both advised of their benefits.
There are many different masks available on the market for you to purchase, but it is also very easy to make a face mask from home. Although they might not provide the same level of protection as a medical-grade mask, for the vast majority of people, these homemade face masks are perfect to use when going out in public.
There are three main types of homemade face masks that you can make:
Bandana style face mask
The bandana-style face mask is the easiest to make and only requires you to have a bandana or scarf, and some way to attach it to your face (such as an elastic band or hair tie). For additional protection, you can include kitchen roll or coffee filters.
You should ensure that your bandana or scarf is suitably thick enough to use as a mask and to do this simply hold it up to the light – the less light you can see through it, the better. Fold the bandana in half, and then fold it in half again lengthways to create your mask front. If you want to add a further layer of protection, you can add your kitchen paper or the coffee filter at this stage.
To attach the mask to your face, place your elastic bands or your hair ties at either end and then fold the material in at the middle. When fitting it to your face, make sure that it completely covers your mouth and nose and is also comfortable to wear. The Surgeon General in the United States, Dr Jerome Adam, shows you how easy it is:
The bandana style mask is very effective and if you are simply visiting the shops to get groceries then this style of face mask provides great protection. However, as it’s only using elastic bands to attach to your face it can be quite uncomfortable for extended use and sometimes might not be as close of a fit as required.
T-shirt style face mask
If you have an old t-shirt that you do not mind sacrificing, then it can be the perfect base for another very quick and easy face mask to make. Although you do not want to be using your latest designer t-shirt, equally you do not want to be using one that has worn through or is very thin. The perfect solution would be using one that is 100% cotton.
The first step is to cut your t-shirt – you should do this from the bottom and ensure it is big enough to cover your nose and mouth. If you are unsure, measure the distance from the top of your nose to the bottom of your chin and if you are still not sure then cut it larger than required, you will be able to trim it later as needed.
To attach it to your face, there are two options you have:
- Cutting around 15cm into the fabric; allowing you to then hook it around your ears.
- Cutting off additional strips from your t-shirt to create ties
Just as you can with the bandana style, for added filtration you can add a coffee filter or kitchen paper. Popular YouTuber Jan Howell shows you how to make one:
In terms of protection, the t-shirt design has very similar pros and cons to the bandana style masks, but it does require a little more time to create – however, it is more comfortable to wear.
Sewed cloth mask
A sewed cloth mask requires the most effort to create but it is arguably the most comfortable and can provide the highest level of protection. To make a sewed face mask, you will need a suitable piece of cloth - either a t-shirt or other form of cotton fabric is ideal, a sewing machine (or thread and needle), and a pair of scissors.
The biggest benefit of sewing a face mask means you can add multiple layers for additional filtration. Unlike the bandana or t-shirt methods, you can also get a little more creative when designing these masks and you can use brightly coloured fabrics to help you stand out from the crowd.
There are different ways to sew the mask together, but one of the simplest is shown in the video below by Craft Daily:
The biggest benefit of this style of mask is that it lets you create the mask to your exact requirement, so it is far more comfortable; allowing you to wear it for longer periods.
Purpose-made face masks
If you are not comfortable making a face mask, or you are looking for increased protection, then there are several types of mask you can buy online. These masks are typically multi-layered and often include an additional layer, such as carbon filters, to provide even further protection.
Whichever mask you decide on, make sure that it fits correctly and is fully covering your nose and mouth at all times. The mask should not disrupt your breathing at any time and ideally, you will want it to be as comfortable as possible so you can wear it for prolonged periods.