< Masks

How do you make your mask?

Text updated on 2020-06-10

You certainly have used clothes or other cloth textiles in the back of your closet, you have a needle and thread: we will guide you to make your first mask. Follow the pattern!

Homemade cloth masks are less effective than FFP respirators or surgical masks but they still prevent droplets from dispersing when coughing, sneezing, talking, or breathing. In addition, they can be washed and reused. In case of a mask shortage, they are the only ones available.

Step by step



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Prototype mask (seamless), tested during avian flu epidemic for its adherence to the face.

Dato, V. M., Hostler, D., & Hahn, M. E. (2006). Simple Respiratory Mask. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 12(6), 1033-1034.

Masks, even homemade ones, can prevent the transmission of the virus by acting as barriers that reduce the distance of droplet dispersal. This modeling study tested several types of fabric. Doubling the layers could further reduce the dispersal distance.

Rodriguez-Palacios, A., Cominelli, F., Basson, A., Pizarro, T., & Ilic, S. (2020). Textile Masks and Surface Covers - A 'Universal Droplet Reduction Model' Against Respiratory Pandemics. medRxiv.

Medical and handcrafted masks made of several types of fabric. Filtration efficiency, measured by viral particle counting, is compared between surgical mask (89%), vacuum bag (86%), cloth (72%), cotton fabrics (51-70%) and silk (54%). However, breathability was half as low with the filter aspirator as with the surgical mask or cotton fabrics.

Davies, A., Thompson, K. A., Giri, K., Kafatos, G., Walker, J., & Bennett, A. (2013). Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: would they protect in an influenza pandemic?. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness, 7(4), 413-418.

A layer of nylon (pantyhose) around the head above the craft or medical mask improves the fit to the face and greatly increases filtration efficiency by reducing air leakage. The filtration efficiency of commercial surgical masks increases from 53-75% (without nylon) to 86-90% with nylon; and from 28-85% to 581% for craft masks.

Mueller, A. V., & Fernandez, L. A. (2020). Assessment of Fabric Masks as Alternatives to Standard Surgical Masks in Terms of Particle Filtration Efficiency. medRxiv.

The mechanisms for blocking droplets and particles by masks vary and change with the size of the particles. When there is no leakage, cotton fabrics with tight weavers and low porosity (e.g. high thread count, 600 TPI vs 80 TPI) can provide a high filtration efficiency for particle sizes of <300 nm="" (="">80%) and >300nm (>90%), comparable to that of N95 (85% and 99.9%) or a surgical mask (76% and 99.6%). Combining high thread count cotton fabric with an electrostatic cloth, such as natural silk, chiffon weave or flannel, also provides a filtration efficiency comparable to a surgical mask regardless of particle sizes. Having a tight fitting to the face is crucial: a 0.635 cm2 hole on a 59 cm2 mask reduces filtration efficiency by up to 60%. Doubling up a single type of fabrics can marginally improve the filtration efficiency.

Konda, A., Prakash, A., Moss, G. A., Schmoldt, M., Grant, G. D., & Guha, S. (2020). Aerosol Filtration Efficiency of Common Fabrics Used in Respiratory Cloth Masks. ACS Nano.

HK Mask homemade mask manual in English and traditional Chinese, with patterns and tutorials in multiple languages. The cotton mask sandwiching one to two sheets of pocket tissue or kitchen roll tissue achieved a bacterial filtration efficiency ranging from 45% to 91% (compared to the 98% of a surgical mask).

HK masks site. Last access on June 6, 2020.

A randomized trial showing that surgical masks are more efficient than home-made masks to protect healthcare workers of virus and influenza-like or respiratory illnesses.

MacIntyre CR, Seale H, Dung TC, Hien NT, Nga PT, Chughtai AA, et al (2015) A cluster randomised trial of clothmasks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers. BMJ open. 2015;5(4):e006577.

Further reading

Can a mask be reused?

Do I have to wear a mask if I don't have any symptoms?

What should I do when I need to visit a vulnerable person?

Can a mask be "worse than nothing"?