How to Make a CDC-Approved Cloth Face Mask (and Rules to Follow)

We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and things are not going particularly well in the United States. If you have to go out in public where it may be hard to stay 6+ feet away from others at all times, you should wear a 2+ layer mask that covers your mouth and nose—even if it is not mandated where you live.

Masks help eliminate the spread of the Covid-19 infection, but they work mainly by preventing you from spreading the virus when you breathe, talk, sneeze, or cough. As such, they only really work if we all wear them.

Because we’re going to be wearing masks for the foreseeable future, we’re reviewing them here on the Gear team.These are our favorite face masks right now. They meet the basic CDC requirements and should hold up to frequent washes. But if you have a surplus of old T-shirts lying around, you can still make your own.

If you’re sick, you shouldn’t be leaving your house, but if you happen to be infected with Covid-19 and are not yet showing any symptoms, wearing a cloth mask might help protect people around you. (These are Covid-19’s typical symptoms.) Some individuals infected with Covid-19 never show symptoms or do not get very sick, especially if they are young. A mask can help you from unknowingly spreading the virus.

Be sure to frequently wash masks in the washing machine with regular detergent.

Updated July 29, 2020: We checked the information in this article, updated links, removed a method for making masks that the CDC no longer lists, and added a section on our favorite masks you can buy.

Some Mask Rules

  • Do not buy and hoard N95 masks. Health care professionals are still facing shortages in supplies, and we should not use protective masks that ill patients and health care workers may need.

  • Do not put a face mask on kids under 2 years old, or anyone who has difficulty breathing or might be unable to remove the mask themselves.

  • Do not remove a mask by its mouth area. Grab it by the straps. Wash your hands after touching it.

  • Do not just wear a standard bandana or scarf. Follow the instructions below to create a mask that has multiple layers (at least two) and more tightly covers your face.

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2 Ways to Make Your Own Face Covering

The CDC released directions for several DIY masks, as well as a short instructional video outlining its no-sew mask-making advice. We’ve put the instructions below.

A DIY T-Shirt Mask (No Sewing Required)

(There is an alternate version of this video for those who know American Sign Language.)

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