The entire world, including Malaysia, is facing a shortage of masks. My friends from the medical and food industries were asking around if anybody knows where to get supplies. When even doctors and business people can’t get it – how about common people like us?
If you can’t buy it, make it!
So I got my Mom to help me make one with a sewing machine. And then I made another one with 5 common things found at home:
- cotton t-shirt
- mending kit (thread & needles)
- hair elastic
- heavy book
WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR OWN MASK?
- Decrease demand for disposable masks, prioritise our frontliners Give proper masks e.g N95 to our medical personnels first (e.g doctors, nurses, paramedics, health inspector, etc). Many are saying with PPE (personal protective gears), it’s like going to war without armour or bullets. They are at the frontline saving us and risking themselves. The least we can do is don’t fight for masks with them
- The pandemic will go on for a while; you will need to wear mask for much longer This pandemic will not subside in the next few days. UK Prime Minister said it’ll be 3 months but many believes it will be much longer
- Shortage of masks means you won’t be able to buy any Not enough supplies are made to match the high demand of mask that affects almost the entire world. You are unlikely going to get your hands on any, anytime soon. Beware there are many “scam” resellers.
- Masks are expensive Disposable mask is now RM 2 per piece (this may change, it was 80 sen, but an approved increase last week by 150% may have been walked back over the weekend). If you were to use it 5 times a week for 1 month, it will be RM 40. This homemade mask probably cost you nothing.
Our poor doctors are wearing garbage because of shortage of protective equipment :(
ABOUT THE DIY MASK
- Two different patterns so that you know which part is outside and which is inside.
- Opening for filter This mask has an opening that allows you to put a filter
You only need materials that you probably get in your house already.
- needles and thread OR sewing machine
- fabric e.g t-shirt, pillow case (about 42 cm x 28 cm)
- elastic (30 cm)
- paper clips/ needle (to secure cloth)
STEP 1: Download & Print pattern
Make sure the scale is 100% before printing.
STEP 2: Cut four pieces of fabric
Using needles (or paper clips) to secure the paper, cut 4 pieces of fabric according to the outline of the pattern.
STEP 3: Make a mark with a pen(so you know which is top/ bottom)
At the top right of the mask, make a mark with a pen/marker.
STEP 4: Stitch two pieces of cloth together x 2
At the curved corner, stitch the two pieces of cloth together (according to the pattern).
Repeat with the other two cloth.
STEP 5: Open the corner & iron x 2
Open up the corner. Then iron to secure it. No iron? Try hair ironing tong, a heavy book, or a metal ruler.
Repeat with the other one.
STEP 6: Open the folded cloth wide.
Now the stitched and ironed cloth can be opened! Fold the bottom part twice, iron, and stitch!
STEP 7: Fold the bottom part twice & stitch.
Fold the bottom part twice (refer to the printed pattern). Iron to secure it. Then stitch.
STEP 8: Repeat with the other cloth
Repeat STEP 6 & STEP 7. Now you should have two cloth pieces that is stitched in the middle, open and stitched at the bottom.
STEP 9: Place the outside (pretty part) of the cloth to face other
Put the two open cloths together. The outside (the prettier part/ the smooth part) should face each other.
STEP 10: Stitch the top and the sides (U shape)
Stitch the top and the side(s) of the mask.
STEP 11: Flip inside-out to reveal your almost done mask!
STEP 12: Secure and stitch elastics at both sides
Fold in the sides. Secure elastics with a needle/clip and stitch along it.
Now your homemade DIY mask is done!
You just need to tie the elastic and readjust it for it to fit snuggly your face.
1. Is this homemade mask good enough for doctors and nurses?
No, it cannot be compared to medical grade masks. But it can be used the last resort for medical staff according to Center of Disease Control of America.
In fact, doctors in America are already urging citizens to make these DIY mask for them as they are having shortage; any mask is better than no mask.
HCP (Health Care Personnels) use of homemade masks:
In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE (Personal Protective Equiptment), since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.
2. So how is DIY mask useful?
When there are shortages of mask, A DIY mask is better than none.
A study published by Cambridge University Press shows that homemade mask “significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers, although the surgical mask was 3 times more effective in blocking transmission than the homemade mask.”
It was shown that even simple DIY masks (e.g., made of T-shirt cloth) can modestly, but significantly reduce the amount of infectious particles expelled by persons wearing them (Davies et al. 2013; van der Sande, Teunis, and Sabel 2008)source
3. What materials should I use?
The material should not only capture particles, but is breathable. Moisture-wicking, quick-dry fabric that can be bleached is recommended(source).
It should also be tightly woven (e.g high thread count). Put it up to the light to see the weave. Loose weave (more holes) is not good to capture particle.
The best to capture particle and breathability is: (source)
- cotton t-shirt
- cotton pillow case
Bottom line: Test data shows that the best choices for DIY masks are cotton t-shirts, pillowcases, or other cotton materials.
These materials filter out approximately 50% of 0.2 micron particles, similar in size to the coronavirussource
Polyester blend may have other benefits:
“Cotton/polyester blends may have additional properties of repelling water, making them better barriers to keep droplets from soaking through outer layers.” (source).
4. What fabrics I should not use?
Fabrics that are NOT recommended:
- stretchy, sequined, or velvet material (source)
I initially use school uniform, mistakenly believing it is cotton. But I contacted the major supplier of school uniform in Malaysia and found that its made from teteron cotton which is 35% cotton and 65% polyester.
5. What filter material can be used?
Unfortunately, a lot of the recommended materials I found are not commonly available.
What may be useful and easier to get is vacuum cleaner bag. In Hong Kong, some people even use paper napkin!
A vacuum cleaner bag was considered the most formidable household material with a rate of nearly 86 percent protection against the smallest particles tested. Falling behind was a standard dish towel at nearly 73 percent; a cotton-blend T-shirt at 70 percent; and an antimicrobial pillowcase at 68 percent….Nevertheless, the Cambridge researchers still chose pillowcases and T-shirts as their favorite option in a pinch because of their breathability. (source)
Note: I am still researching on this. If you have any insights/expertise, please share them with me.
6. I don’t have a hair elastic band. What else can I use?
Ribbons. Elastic from your old pants. Be creative!
7. How long does it take to make one mask?
It took us 1.5 hours to make our first one (with a sewing machine) and subsequently 30 minutes for each. Sewing by hand will take longer.
8. I don’t have a sewing machine. Can I still make it?
Yes you can! My neighbour made this mask entirely using needle and thread. No machine involved.
9. How do I know my mask is made well?
Wear you wear it, it should fit snuggly on your face. It should not have gaps at the sides.
Even better if you spray perfume on yourself while wearing your DIY mask, you can’t smell the fragrance (a tip by a doctor I know); but I think this will be hard to achieve otherwise it’ll be as good as a medical grade mask.
10. How many should I make?
As much as you can to give away to those in need!
3 pieces is recommended. One for wearing in the day, another for the night, another one for washing.
But even if you can make only one, it’s good enough. This mask is reusable.
11. I have extra DIY mask. Who shall I give it to? Who need it most?
If you can, make more and give it to family and friends who doesn’t have masks or people who need it e.g garbage collectors, they might be at risk.
I personally think that cleaning staff need our DIY mask most as they are not paid well, neglected, and doing the dirtiest – and now one of the most dangerous – work.
Let’s sew masks in our quarantine and give it away to those who need it!
Chase away your boredom by doing something meaningful. We are at a time where staying at home and making crafts can save lives. Why not?
PLEASE DONATE N95 MASK
She said that the medical staffs are lacking Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); many are now Covid positive. That means that they have to be quarantine hence cannot work to save patients.
If you have any mask please donate to doctors you know, or send it to a hospital near you. Doctors are now spending time making face shields and gowns. One department is tasked to do that and produce 150 face shields.
Sounds a lot? No. Once used, it has to be thrown away; so they really do need a lot more. Since we are staying home and not in direct contact with Covid positive patients, social distancing and surgical mask/ DIY mask is good enough.
If you donate 5 pieces, that means 1 doctor can work safely for 5 days more. Make a DIY mask, donate N95 mask.
Useful links/ sources
- Tutorial in Cantonese (link)
- Strategies for optimising the supply of face masks by Center of Disease Control of America (link)
- Best materials for making DIY homemade mask (link)
- Cambridge’s University Press on Testing The Efficacy of Homemade Mask (link)
DISCLAIMER: This is by no means a proper replacement for medical grade mask like N95. However, if you have none, wearing a DIY cloth mask is better than nothing. But if you do have N95 masks stocked up, it’s best to donate to your nearest hospital as our medical staffs are desperate for them.