Skip to main content

How to Make Face Masks for Hospitals During the Coronavirus Shortage


Fabric and medical experts weigh in on everything you need to know before donating.

How to Make Face Masks for Hospitals During the Coronavirus Shortage
by Good Housekeeping US
How to Make Face Masks for Hospitals During the Coronavirus Shortage
by Good Housekeeping US

As more information about the coronavirus pandemic develops, some of the information in this story may have changed since it was last updated. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit the online resources provided by the CDCWHO, and your local public health department.

Medical face masks for healthcare workers are running dangerously low due to the rapid increase of COVID-19 patients filling up hospitals and the fact that many consumers are purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for their own personal use. Hospitals are asking for donations of N95 respirators (the CDC-recommended masks for healthcare professionals working with infectious patients). But these efforts aren't enough to keep up with the demand for N95 masks, so businesses and good samaritans are taking it upon themselves to sew masks for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers working on the front lines of the novel coronavirus.

The PPE supply has become such a crisis that hospital workers are turning to social media to ask for hand-sewn surgical masks. Facebook groupsYouTube channels, and Instagram accounts are popping up with crafters banding together to figure out how to make homemade masks and get them in the hands of healthcare professionals. If you own a sewing machine, you can join this movement — but there are some important facts you need to know first.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab reached out to medical professionals, sewing experts, and fabric suppliers to pull together everything you need to know about making face masks at home, from sewing tutorials to guidelines from hospitals.

Do fabric face masks actually work?

Yes and no. They're not as effective as N95 masks, but they're still useful because hospitals are completely running out of masks altogether. The CDC advises using N95 masks for the best protection, but it says to use a bandana or scarf as a last resort if the hospital-approved masks are not available. Unfortunately we're at that point in this pandemic, so homemade masks are being made to replace bandanas and scarves.

The homemade versions are also being worn on top of N95 masks to help them last longer. These masks are being rationed wherever they're still available. Even though they're made for single use, hospital workers are being told to rewear the same N95 mask for days or even weeks at a time.

If you or someone you know has any N95 masks, hospitals are urging you to donate or sell them. The CDC doesn't recommend the use of N95 masks for anyone other than healthcare professionals working directly with patients.

What fabric should I use?

The best fabric for homemade masks is a tightly woven, 100% cotton fabric. Things like denim, bed sheets, and heavyweight shirts are all good options. Avoid knit fabrics (e.g. jersey T-shirts) because they create holes when they stretch, which the virus could get through. Make sure to prewash fabrics using hot water to kill germs and to pre-shrink the material so it doesn't change shape after healthcare workers wash it themselves.

We spoke with several healthcare professionals, and it's clear that there are no specific guidelines or regulations around making homemade masks at this time. Still, there are some best practices you can follow if you want to help. On top of a sewing machine and fabric, you'll need a nonwoven filter fabric to help block out particles and a metal piece (like a paper clip) to make it fit snugly around the nose.

If you have clothing or bedding items at home that are in good condition, you can use these instead of having to buy new fabric. On top of that, JOANN stores are donating precut fabric to anyone who wants to make masks. All 860 stores will be offering the materials in their classrooms with sewing machines, which the company says will follow social distancing recommendations. You can also call the store to have the supplies brought out to your car for curbside pickup if you have a sewing machine at home and prefer to not enter the store.

Young woman with fabric samples for curtains at table. Multiple color fabric texture samples selection fabrics for interior decoration. Furniture upholstery

Will hospitals accept homemade masks?

Homemade masks technically are not hospital-approved, so some hospitals won't accept the donations directly. Check with local hospitals in your area to see if they can use your homemade masks and if so, what their policies are for dropping them off. Because this is a rapidly changing situation, hospitals are continuing to update policies.

Otherwise, healthcare professionals are making requests on social media. MasksForHeroes uses an Instagram account to post PPE requests from healthcare workers. It says some hospitals have given permission to send the requests, but other posts from individual employees may be anonymous. The U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health is also compiling lists of hospitals by state that are accepting homemade masks, including instructions for dropping them off.

Keep in mind: it's not just hospitals that need face masks. Healthcare workers in other facilities like nursing homes and urgent care centers are also dealing with mask shortages while working with COVID-19 patients. Even non-healthcare workers like veterinarians and firefighters are left without face masks and have said they would accept homemade versions.

How do I make a homemade face mask?

We worked with Amanda Perna, fashion designer and Project Runway alum, who started sewing face masks after she had to temporarily close her fashion studio due to the coronavirus outbreak. Amanda has been working tirelessly to make as many masks as possible and recruiting seamstresses to join her efforts. We also reached out to some of our top-tested cotton sheet brands like ParachuteBrooklinenGryphonGarnet HillCuddledown, and Authenticity50, and they have generously committed to sending her fabric.

Here is Amanda's step-by-step guide to sewing medical face masks, including a template you can print at home:

  1. Print pattern
  2. Cut pattern out
  3. Use pattern to cut 2 cotton fabric pieces
  4. Use pattern to cut 2 interfacing pieces (MUST be nonwoven)
  5. Place cut fabric with front sides together
  6. Place both layers of the interfacing together on top of fabric (on the back side of fabric)
  7. Sew top 9” seam (2.5-3 stitch length is best) with ¼” seam allowance
  8. Flip open with front side of fabric up
  9. Press seam flat to one side
  10. Insert metal piece along seam between the 2 pieces of fabric
  11. Stitch ½” rectangle that is indicated at top of pattern (with wrong sides together) to secure metal piece
  12. Flip back to right sides together, stitch bottom 9” seam
  13. Flip back to right side out and press bottom seam
  14. Use pattern to help mark pleats. Pleat the 3 pleats all in the same direction, put a pin to keep them in place
  15. Cut binding tape at 36” per side
  16. Find the center point of the binding and the center point of the mask and pin the binding on the mask with the mask sandwiched between the binding
  17. Sew binding
  18. Repeat on the other side of the mask
  19. Press pleats
  20. Finally, pat yourself on the back, because you are making a difference!

Check out the video above to see Amanda's step-by-step instructions in action.

Textiles DirectorLexie Sachs earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Fiber Science from Cornell University, and she researches, tests and reports on fabric-based products ranging from sheets, mattresses and towels to bras, fitness apparel and other clothing.

lists of hospitals by state that are accepting homemade masks

lists of hospitals by state that are accepting homemade masks 









"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins









Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

That's exactly what I was thinking!   Funny as hell!  The dog waving and the monkey taking pictures....who's in the zoo/prison now?  Hilarious.  This is a good one my brotha!  We have possums in our neighborhood.  I know they're having a great time in folks backyard pulling on those fruit trees.  Wouldnt be surprised to see a family of bears strolling through the hood...picking any trash can it wants!  But that might not be healthy for em cuz corona infected a probably can infect them.  Cuz we really don't know how this virus is  actually being transmitted-only what they tell us.  So.   And I know them repubs are gonna turn on you know who....soon.  Cuz corona don't give a fock who you are and what party you claim. And their folks are catching it big time.  Doesn't Rand Paul have it?  And the prime minster Bois?  Then Prince Charles?  It's jumping around different places  And everyone looking at the fact that you know who minimized this virus way back calling it a democratic hoax.  So that's back to bite him...hard.   And being stingy with the ventilators from folks who actually voted for him isn't very "smart."  Fighting with governors don't help.  And the arrogance doesn't help.  Plus identifying  the people who are "numbers" instead of human beings is another thing he's gonna have to contend with. 

Cuz most importantly during this corona storm crisis his behavior is no longer funny.  Folks [white, black, Hispanic, Asian]  are not laughing any more.  They are no longer shocked, appalled or amazed.  And the fact that he is now giving daily briefings doesn't make it erase what he denied two months ago or show he;s competent because of it.  He is giving his base a microscope look into his core character as a member of the human race during a crucial time when humanity counts.  All eyes are glazed hard on him and he can feel it but still think it's business as usual-but!  Unfortunately for is not!  Let's watch the change in his base as it shifts from privilege/entitlement and narcissism to empathy and altruism.  And let's watch his defenders cuz now they fear the virus more than they do him.  You know  the ones who take up for him-even when he's wrong, let's see their reaction when their family members become gravely ill/and or dying and nothing can be done.   But! 

Last edited by Kocolicious

I've seen a few videos where animals are just walking around places and communities where they never were before.  It's like they KNOW that humans are locked inside their homes and afraid to come out.  [We've erroneously been taught to UNDERESTIMATE the intelligence of animal;  big mistake]

I doubt the republicans will turn on Trump before his second term is nearing the end, though probably not even then, considering they ALL have colluded with one another to spread the Coronavirus across America.

They are literally waging WAR against the United States Government and the American people, and this 'Coronavirus' is being used as their Nazi 'blitz'.

And all these "leaders", etc., contracting corona virus, HA! 

They are all lying to throw people off the fact that the masses are being set up. 

The masses are being set up to be experiencing so much [Corona Virus induced] chaos, despair and desperation, that they won't have the Will [or strength] to care that their country is being taken over by fascist nazi oligarchy.


Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.