Washington, DC

Ed. Note: Find official Health Guidance from coronavirus.dc.gov here.

“Dear PoPville,

I do a lot of sewing, and am seeing a lot of social media posts from others who are planning to/trying to make face masks to donate to medical personnel/hospitals- like this.

I understand these definitely aren’t N95 masks, but I’ve also seen pictures of a lot of medical personnel wearing regular surgical masks that are meant to protect from larger droplets/fluids- I’m wondering if the medical folks in the PoPville community could weigh in: would it actually be helpful for people to donate homemade masks like the ones above, or would this be an ultimately useless gesture? If it would be useful: where could I send them? These are incredibly simple and even inexperienced sewists could make a ton of them…

Thanks! I hope everyone is staying safe and sane out there…”

For those who do have proper PPE (N95 masks etc.) please visit this site.

Another reader writes:

“As the coronavirus pandemic spreads and worldwide mask outage continues, I did some research and experimented with making my own. So I am sharing my DIY disposable mask experiment. If others in PPpville community have been playing around with DIY mask ideas as well, please share too – let the creativity flow!

This DIY mask is super easy, fast and cheap to make. The mask production capacities catching up to demand could be months away. The N95 mask is certified to stop the coronavirus and that too 95% of the time – not 100%. But if you are bare faced, you are at 0%! Social isolation is absolutely the best during these times, but most of us still have to occasionally head out, e.g. to a crowded grocery store or a pharmacy. Basically, any mask or covering you use will put you somewhere between 0% and 95% – depending on the material and design.

The coronavirus is 0.1 micron in size, about 1/500 of a human hair – whereas most air purifiers catch particles up to 0.3 microns in size. That means it can get in through the tiniest openings. People are making DIY masks out of cotton fabrics, paper towels, old bras, orange peels, etc. – it’s hard to find material that’s both waterproof (or close to it) and breathable. May be readers can suggest alternative materials to the “puppy version” below. From what I read, “nonwoven material”, like the one below, is also used in surgery masks, but I am no expert.


1. Puppy /dog training pads – get them from Amazon (costs about 100 sheets for $15 or $20) or any pet store. These absorb liquids (hah!) and are waterproof to a point. Given the virus transmits in droplets, some kind of waterproof non-woven material seems to make sense. Also these are somewhat light/breathable, like heavy tissue.

2. Stapler and staples – no need to sew!

3. Rubber bands or hair bands – to use as loops to put around your ears, to keep mask in place.

4. Scissors and measuring tape, to cut the pad and fit mask to your face

The steps are explained below. I made one mask out of half a pad in about 2 minutes – it’s cheap and fast.

1. Cut pad in half – each half is 11″ by 22″.
2. Fold “accordion style”.

3. Staple two ends where loops would begin.

I initially did 12″ in the middle for face portion, so had 5″ at end for the loops. Later that turned out to be too big for my face – so for my second mask, I used 9.5″ in the middle for the face portion. You have to play around, for the right size for your face.

4. Fold the two ends into loops, put rubber band inside, and staple again.

5. Trim with scissor any excess material around the edges, to make it cleaner /less bulky, and tweak as you see fit.

Done! I made one mask out of half a pad in about 2 minutes – it’s cheap and fast. The rubber bands go around your ears to keep it in place.

If you are already sick and trying to protect the people around you, you might want to wear this in reverse- i.e. the white absorbent side touching your skin, vs facing outward. In that case, the blue side will face outward.

These are such crazy times, that even repurposing puppy training pads for a protective face mask seems worth exploring. But safety comes first, and we are all trying to figure this out. Please share – may be it will help someone, or at a minimum, generate a robust community discussion with new ideas/improvements. Stay safe everyone!”


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