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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

How to Make a CDC-Approved Face Mask For Double Masking

We've somehow reached the one-year mark of living in the Covid-19 pandemic, and at this point, you should have a few masks that are properly fitted and filtered. But if you want to have more on hand for double-masking, you can make your own. 

It's important to note that the CDC no longer recommends making your own masks because the manufacturing of properly made masks has increased and DIY ones can vary in efficacy. But adding a layer over a disposable medical mask is an option that we think is only beneficial. See the CDC website for its updated guide to masks.

If you’re sick, you shouldn’t be leaving your house. But if you happen to be infected with Covid-19 and are not yet showing any symptoms, wearing a cloth mask will protect those around you, and help you from unknowingly spreading the virus. (These are Covid-19’s typical symptoms.)

Be sure to frequently wash masks in the washing machine with regular detergent.

Updated April 2021: This article was originally a guide on how to create your own cloth face mask, and followed CDC guidance. We've updated it now that the CDC doesn't recommend using a homemade cloth mask as your only face covering. We recommend you purchase one of our favorite face masks if you're searching for a primary face covering to wear.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.

Some Mask Rules

  • Do not hoard N95 masks. Health care professionals are still facing shortages in supplies, and we should not use protective masks intended for ill patients and health care workers.
  • Do not put a face mask on kids under 2 years old, or anyone who has difficulty breathing or might be unable to remove the mask themselves.
  • Do not remove a mask by its mouth area. Grab it by the straps. Wash your hands after touching it.
  • Do not just wear a standard bandana or scarf. Wear a properly manufactured mask (disposable or not) with multiple layers that tightly covers your face. The directions below are for a second layer.
  • Do not stop wearing a mask if mandates have been lifted where you live. Even if you've been vaccinated (if not, here's how to find a Covid-19 vaccine), you should continue wearing masks when out in public—private businesses like restaurants and grocery stores can still deny you service, and until everyone is vaccinated, we need to be vigilant.

How to Make a DIY T-Shirt Mask (No Sewing Required)

These directions are based off of the CDC's original guidelines. As we stated above, these masks should only be used in double-masking, layered over a disposable medical mask (if you don't already own cloth masks). These are not intended to be used as your only layer of protection.

What You’ll Need:

  • Tightly knit cotton material, like a T-shirt. (A scarf can work, but the fabric should be big enough to fold several times and cover your nose and mouth.)
  • Two rubber bands or hair ties (also here)

How to Assemble It:

  1. Horizontally cut the bottom 7 to 8 inches off of a T-shirt, so that you have a strip of material.
  2. Lay the material out flat in front of you, and turn it 90 degrees so that what used to be the bottom hem of the shirt (it’s usually double stitched) is facing left or right.
  3. Fold it from the bottom to the middle, and from the top to the middle. Repeat this step a second time. The material should now be several layers thick.
  4. Loop a rubber band or hair tie around each end (left and right), leaving a few inches of fabric, so each side looks like a candy wrapper.
  5. Fold the excess material over the band, with each side meeting in the middle, adding another layer to the mask.
  6. Put a band over each ear, making sure the material fits snugly to your face. The pressure on your face should keep the material and rubber bands in place.

If You Have a Sewing Machine:

If you know how to work a sewing machine, you can make a sturdier mask by stitching the sides together once you've folded the material to its proper thickness. You may also want to invest in some elastic for the straps. 

Our Favorite Masks

WIRED’s face mask recommendations are here, with different styles and price points. Keep in mind that you should attempt to verify that any face mask you buy meets CDC guidelines. For example, it should have at least two layers of fabric, fit securely against your face, allow for clear breathing, and have the ability to be laundered.

The Kitsbow Wake Protech Reusable Face Mask is WIRED mask reviewer Adrienne So’s favorite option for double masking when she is in a crowded, public place. The Lululemon Double Strap Mask is So's favorite for when she's not double-masking outside. The signature Ultralu fabric makes it stretchy and silky against your face, and the straps keep it off your ears.

We also have a separate guide to kids' masks and How to Properly Double Mask.

In addition to wearing a face covering, the CDC still recommends doing these things regularly:

  • Get vaccinated. Read our guide on How to Find a Covid-19 Vaccine in Your Area to learn more and protect yourself.
  • Wash your hands. Use soap and water, and wash them for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is acceptable to use if you are unable to wash your hands.
  • Cover your face when coughing with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your face, because you could transmit the virus from your hands into your mouth.
  • Stay at home, except for essential trips outside like trips to the grocery store or to see your doctor. This is also called sheltering in place.
  • Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other people. Avoid crowds, especially indoors. That should be easy because you’re staying at home.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily (here’s our Covid-19 cleaning guide).

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