What to Know Before Making Your Own DIY Face Mask

To mask or not to mask?

That’s been a confusing question for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 29, the official recommendation from the U.S. Surgeon General was not to mask. But by April 3, the CDC changed its tune, officially recommending that people use masks in public and even created a step-by-step guide showing how to make one.

The (CDC) guide offers options for both sew and no-sew face masks which can be fashioned out of cloth (like cotton) or other fabrics and materials you likely already have available at home. Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also published guidelines on proper mask application, removal, and protocols to help reduce spread.

Below are masks you can make at home along with important safety tips from M. Patricia Fabian, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health, about homemade face masks and staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are different types of protective face masks. Some are plain, like surgical masks, some have built in filtration, and some are actually shields that cover your entire face. We’re going to focus on surgical style masks.

Surgical masks are often used when performing surgeries, hence their name. According to the CDC, FDA-cleared surgical masks are designed to protect the wearer from “splashes and sprays.” This is probably why the masks became wildly popular at the outset of the pandemic and sold out quickly—they’re helpful (when utilized properly) at preventing droplets, like the ones that carry COVID-19, from making it into the nostrils and mouth of the person wearing it.

Still, surgical masks are not a guaranteed way to prevent germs from getting you sick since they have openings on the sides, top, and bottom, and don’t offer a tight, form-fitting seal.