My DIY Coronavirus Mask
I wanted a reusable cloth mask that
- has a big filter pocket for many filter material options
- is fitted properly so it filters air flow inward and outward
- is comfortable enough to wear for hours
- is flexible enough to easily talk while maintaining the air tight fit
- does not touch my mouth or smoosh my nose
- lightweight/comfortable enough to wear while biking for exercise
- is not too hard to make to supply a family
- can be adjusted to an air-tight fit on multiple people in the family
- hang dries quickly (this design cannot go in a washing machine)
I have no special sewing skills. I used only a straight stitch on a sewing machine, so this could all be done by hand.
I tried several DIY mask patterns and commercial/etsy masks but none had all the characteristics listed above. This is my current solution. Please send any ideas for making it better or easier to make.
- A lightweight mask to modify. I decided to modify a commercial dust mask that already fits nicely around the nose and ears because I found the nose/ear parts the hardest to make comfortable in a DIY mask. I start with a mesh dust mask that has a combination ear loop and velcro strap around the heat. This is NOT a coronavirus mask because it has one-way air valves that do not filter your exhale. The mesh mask dries quickly and forms the basic shape that keeps the mask from touching your mouth.
- High thread count cotton sheets (or similar material). High thread count makes a better filter. Choose a material that hang dries quickly.
- Filter inserts. My mask has a large filter pocket and I can insert a surgical mask as a filter. If you use cloth as a filter, you need to have multiple layers of cotton to be a good aerosol filter. My chosen mesh mask is not a great filter and needs two or more filtering layers added to it. I have been using sheets for the extra layers to insert into the filter pocket, but will upgrade to using the surgical mask now that they are easily available.
- A nose wire (unless the mask already has a good one). I used 19 gauge steel wire (1 mm). But any sturdy wire works just fine.
- A lightweight bracing material to keep the mask from collapsing when you breath in. I used a boning ribbon.
- Elastic band or thick string (or shoelaces etc.) to use for the chin adjustment.
- A drawstring toggle for the chin adjustment.
This dust mask comes with valves and filters, which I take off. I left on the plastic nose piece for the adults and removed them for my youngest daughter. This is a rather expensive starting mask, but it fit multiple people in the family and we may re-use later as originally intended for smoke from CA wildfires.
Start with a mask that fits comfortably around the nose and ears/head. When my mouth is closed, the mask bottom sits loosely on top of my chin (top). I can tighten the strap more and get a seal around my chin, but then I cannot talk. If I want to open my mouth wide, my chin sticks out of the mask (bottom). Pick a base mask where the nose is tight but comfortable on the ears and the chin is loose so you can talk.
Make a pattern for your mask by tracing around the mask. Add extra material for edge seams and under the chin (top). Make a pattern the same size as the mask for the filter inserts (bottom). Cut two pieces of each pattern from your cloth and sew together along the nose edge. Sew seams along all other edges.
I attached the outer cloth layer to the mesh mask by sewing across the top edge and carefully around the plastic nose piece. I sewed the sides of the cloth layer (by each ear) to the mesh mask. The bottom of the outer cloth layer is not attached and the filter pocket is the space between the mesh and the cloth. The under-chin length depends on the person. The top example is for an 11-year old and the bottom example is for adults. (These masks already have the chin strap attached.) I tried to sew across the nose just below the black edging. I poked a small hole into the edging and inserted the steel wire into the edging to make most of the top of the mask moldable to each person’s face.
To brace the mask against sucking onto your face, I cut a piece of boning ribbon that fit across the entire filter pocket and then sewed it onto the mesh. My first brace was a pipe cleaner that I threaded through the valve holes, which worked just fine but had to be taken out and readjusted with every wash.
The primary goal of wearing a mask every time you leave the house is to contain the droplets in your own breath. A good fitting mask will contain more droplets and. be more comfortable to wear for long time periods. To capture the smallest aerosols in your breath, you will need better filtration than typical home materials.
If you want or need better filtration, the filter pocket is big enough to insert surgical masks. This surgical mask is very comfortable as a filter insert and they are now available and inexpensive to use as a disposable insert.
If you are in an environment that needs a hospital-grade respirator, consult an expert.
The bottom of the outer cloth layer should fit underneath your chin with enough extra cloth to be able to open and close your mouth. To form the seal around your cheeks and under your chin, I attach an elastic band with a toggle clip (upper pic). Using elastic instead of string for the chin adjustment makes it easier to talk. To make the sewing easier (and this part is not visible), I used the edging from the sheets to make the seam that holds the elastic. I stitched one end of the elastic into the seam and left the other end open for the end of the elastic and attached the toggle.
The mesh fabric was bothering my younger daughter so she asked for inner lining that wrapped over the chin of the mesh which I added at the end (bottom pic).
The ear/head strap of the mask is tightened only enough to seal the nose comfortably. Then, the chin strap is adjusted to tighten the mask around the cheeks and under the chin. Separating these adjustments greatly relieves the stress on the ears. There is a commercial mask that has a separate chin adjustment by Cambridge Mask Co. (note that their masks also have valves but the company also sells inserts to keep the valve closed with a sticker to let others know that the valve is blocked). You can tuck in the dangling elastic or make a little pocket for it if you want.
The mask is fitted to breathe through the cloth but the boning prevents the mask from collapsing onto the face. The mask does not touch my mouth and my chin can move freely when talking.