How to Make Your Face Mask More Effective During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Making a cloth mask

How to make your face mask more effective. If you're going to make a face mask at home, there are a few very important things to remember.

Should you wear a mask? Emerging evidence that the coronavirus can be spread by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals has prompted the Centers for Disease Control to recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. 

The CDC says the cloth face covering may "slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others."

On Friday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams even made a step-by-step video on how to make a no-sew homemade mask with an old-t-shirt and rubber bands.

If you're going to make a face mask at home, there are a few very important things to remember.

Use a fabric that is tightly woven

If light can shine through the fabric, germs also have a better chance of getting through. Thicker and more dense fabrics, such as a dinner napkin or dish towel, are better to use.

Use multiple layers to increase effectiveness

Using an inner lining as an extra screen may help filter out more particles. One "secret ingredient" you may already have on hand is a simple paper towel, which you can layer inside of another piece of cloth.

Avoid hoarding surgical masks or N-95 respirators

The type of face coverings recommended by the CDC are not commercially-made surgical masks or N-95 respirators. 

"Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders," according to the CDC.

Until recently, the CDC has said that healthy people do not need a mask unless they are a healthcare worker or are caring for a person with the coronavirus. Evidence available did not suggest that wearing a mask would do much to protect a healthy person from contracting COVID-19.

According to the CDC, “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.”  They also say “cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”