Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
Updated July 2, 2020
COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has caused millions of illnesses and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.
When someone infected talks, coughs, or sneezes, it releases airborne droplets that can be inhaled by people within 6 feet, possibly infecting them. Those droplets also can land on surfaces. If people touch an infected surface and then their nose, mouth, or eyes, they can get infected.
Although people are most contagious when they’re showing symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath, asymptomatic people also can spread COVID-19.
For that reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing facemasks in public to help prevent spreading COVID-19.
As of July 1, 2020, Pennsylvania began requiring residents over 2 years old to wear facemasks in public to limit the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Masks are mandatory in all indoor public spaces, as well as in outdoor spaces where you cannot consistently maintain 6 feet of social distance between yourself and people who are not members of your household.
The CDC recommends the public make homemade cloth facemasks from common household items. This will help save supplies of surgical facemasks and N-95 respirators for health care workers and others who need them.
Here are some steps you should take to create your own cloth facemask.
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What to Use for a Homemade Facemask
Members of the general public should not purchase medical-grade facemasks. To create your own facemask, you can use cloth items that you either already have in your house or buy at low cost. That includes fabric, bandanas, scarves, or T-shirts.
According to the CDC, a homemade facemask should:
- Fit snugly, but comfortably, against the side of your face
- Be secured around your ears with some sort of tie or loop
- Include multiple layers of fabric
- Allow you to breathe comfortably
- Be machine washable without losing its shape
You can create your facemask either with a sewing machine or with a no-sew method.
How to Make a No-Sew Facemask
If you have access to a sewing machine, the CDC has guidelines to make a sewn cloth facemask.
If you don’t have a sewing machine, don’t worry – there are two different no-sew methods you can use.
No-sew bandana facemask
For this facemask, you can use a bandana or another square piece of fabric measuring 20 inches by 20 inches.
- Fold the bottom of the bandana up, stopping in the middle of the fabric.
- Fold the top of the bandana down, again stopping in the middle.
- Repeat the process: Fold the bottom again up to the middle, and fold the top down to the middle.
- Slide rubber bands or hair ties over each end of the fabric and place them about 6 inches apart.
- Fold both sides into the middle and tuck them in.
- Secure the mask to your face, looping the rubber bands or hair ties behind your ears. Adjust if necessary so the mask covers your mouth and nose.
No-sew T-shirt facemask
Have a cotton T-shirt that you don’t mind getting rid of? You can use that to make a facemask, too.
- Measure 7 to 8 inches up from the bottom of your T-shirt. Using a pair of scissors, cut across this line. Keep the front and back of the T-shirt together as you cut.
- With your cut piece of fabric, cut out a rectangle about 6 or 7 inches in length and 5 to 6 inches in width. Make sure you leave fabric both above and below your cut.
- Cut the ends at the top and bottom of your remaining fabric to create tie strings.
- Using the tie strings you created in step 4, secure the mask to your face. Tie one set of strings around your neck and the other set over the top of your head.
- Adjust the mask, if necessary, to cover your nose and mouth.
When Should I Wear a Facemask?
You should wear your cloth facemask when you’re out in the public, especially in crowded places like grocery stores or pharmacies. The facemask may help prevent you from spreading the coronavirus to others, or from others spreading it to you.
While the facemask offers one layer of protection, you should still practice social distancing. Try to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people when out in the public.
The CDC recommends other guidelines about using facemasks:
- Along with social distancing, keep up other COVID-19 prevention tactics like regular handwashing and sanitizing common surfaces.
- Do not place cloth facemasks on children under 2 years old, people with trouble breathing, or someone who is unconscious or incapacitated.
- Use cloth facemasks instead of surgical facemasks or N95 respirators. Save these medical-grade items for health care workers.
- Wash your facemask routinely, especially after using them.
- When removing your facemask, do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. Wash your hands immediately after removal.
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