What to do if you don’t have a face mask

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Even before there was a big reversal on wearing face masks in public from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they were hard to find. Buying the face masks from Amazon or other top retailers has you on a months-long waiting list and even that’s not guaranteed that you will get a face mask. Many people are now forced to come up with backup plans in trying to track down face masks to ward off the spread of COVID-19. The new CDC guidance does not call for Americans to use surgical masks or N95 respirator masks, which officials hope to stockpile and preserve for medical professionals on the frontlines as hospitals are facing short Personal Protective Equipment (PPE.) To follow along with these face mask guidelines, you may have to get crafty and create your own.

What can I use as a face mask?

The California Department of Public Health suggests you can use the following items to make cloth face masks:

  1. Bandanas

  2. Scarves

  3. T-shirts

  4. Sweaters

  5. Towels

Face mask safety tips

Once you have the material to use to make the cloth face masks, the CDC says they should meet the following criteria:

  1. Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

  2. Be secured with ties or ear loops

  3. Include multiple layers of fabric

  4. Allow for breathing without restriction

  5. Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Who shouldn’t wear a face mask?

The CDC strongly urges the following people to NOT wear a cloth face mask:

  1. Children under 2 years of age

  2. Anyone with trouble breathing

  3. Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

How to make a cloth face mask

Now that you have all of the material to make a cloth face mask, it’s time to get to work. Unless you’re a master clothier or seamstress, you’ll probably need a little help with a pattern. If that’s the route you want to take, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that can take you step by step through creating a cloth face mask. If you’re all thumbs and not handy at all with sewing, lucky for you there are several no-sew options for making a cloth mask.

Caring for your cloth face mask

Now that you have your cloth face mask finished, it’s important to know how to care for it. Health experts urge you to do the following when cleaning your cloth face mask:

  1. Wash cloth face masks after each use, or at least daily

  2. Place the cloth mask in a bag or bin until it can be washed

  3. A regular washing machine and dryer will be sufficient for cleaning cloth face masks

  4. For the washing machine setting, use hot water and plenty of detergent to clean the cloth face mask

  5. For the dryer setting, dry the cloth face mask on a hot cycle


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