NOTE: AFL thanks our friends at CNBC and author Nir Eyal.
So far, U.S. health officials have not offered guidelines or regulations around homemade masks — and since commercially made ones are almost impossible to find, your last resort is just starting making your own.
You can find a variety of mask designs online, but simple yet promising one comes from a recent study published in the medical journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.
Researchers analyzed 2008 studies from Public Health England (which evaluated a range of household materials that, in the event of a pandemic, could be used by the general public to make masks) to create a D.I.Y. guide.
“These studies found that T-shirts and pillowcases made into a mask using the design [below] may act as a barrier against influenza, or help limit spread by a person with symptoms,” according to the study’s authors. “We have no data on COVID-19, but it’s not unreasonable to assume similarity.”
They also stressed that “the wearing of face masks will only offer limited protected, and should not be considered as sufficient protection. Additional preventative measures need to be adopted.”
Face mask template:
(Template and instructions C/O: Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. Click here to enlarge.)
- Cutout of mask template above (sizing should be adjusted based on individual face measurements)
- Two washed 100% cotton T-shirts (or any tightly-woven, but breathable, fabric) in contrasting colors. Using two colors will help you remember which side of the mask is facing outwards (contaminated) and which is facing inwards (non-contaminated).
- Pen or marker
- 1.10 meters of flat elastic
- Needle and thread (or sewing machine)
Simplified version of step-by-step instructions:
- Place the template on a single layer of the T-shirt. Use a pen to trace and cut around the rectangle. Repeat with the second T-shirt.
- Place the two rectangles on top of each other. Using your needle and thread, stitch them together at each end, as indicated on the template by Seam A.
- You should now have a rectangle that is stitched at both ends, forming a loop. Turn the loop inside out and iron the seams flat.
- Stitch the fabric together at both ends, where indicated by Seam B. This will create two “tubes” at both ends of the mask.
- Cut the elastic in half, creating two lengths, each approximately 55 centimeters. Each length should be long enough to go around your head, from the bridge of your nose to the back of your head.
- Tie a loose knot at one end of the elastic to help feed it through the tube. Repeat for the other tube.
- To create the pleats, fold the fabric as indicated on the template (unevenly-dashed lines backwards, evenly-dashed lines forward).
- Iron the pleats flat and stitch both sides, as indicated by Seam C.
- Fit the mask so that it sits on the bridge of your nose and under your chin. Hold the elastic at the back of your head at a comfortable length so that it stays on. Mark the correct length and stitch the ends of the elastic to finish the mask.
- Wear your mask in the same orientation each time you use it (i.e., always wear the same side facing outwards).
- Masks should be machine-washed frequently using hot water and regular detergent. Dry at a hot setting.
- Remove your mask by taking the straps from the back of your head and pulling it forward.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching your mask.
Wearing a mask shows we’re all in this together
Most people have the basic materials to make a mask right now. It’s time to call forth the “can do” American spirit and encourage people stuck at home to start sewing.
Doing so can save existing stock for healthcare professionals as manufacturers ramp up production in the coming months. If you’re healthy have any unused commercial or medical-grade masks lying around, consider donating them to local hospitals.
Instead of obsessing over ill-conceived mixed messages, let’s starting viewing mask-wearing as an act of solidarity — and make it the new norm (at least until this pandemic over).
Nir Eyal is a behavioral psychology expert and instructor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He is the author of the best-selling books “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life” and “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Building Products” and has written for Harvard Business Review, TIME and Psychology Today. Follow him on Twitter @NirEyal.