Coronavirus Tips: How (And Why) To Make Easy DIY Face Masks

Sharon McNary in a mask she made to match her shirt (Sharon McNary/KPCC/LAist)

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Now that Mayor Eric Garcetti has imposed face mask requirements in the City of Los Angeles, it's important to make sure you, your family, your friends and neighbors are covered. We're here to help.

Earlier this week, we hosted a virtual event with infrastructure reporter Sharon McNary, in which she demonstrated how to make a mask with common household items. She also answered some common questions with the help of small business owner and former nurse Sonia Smith-Kang.

Here are the highlights.

THERE ARE TWO EASY WAYS TO MAKE A HOMEMADE FACE MASK

  1. The first method requires just a T-shirt and scissors. And if you have cardboard, you can create a stencil (it kinda looks like half of the letter H, but fatter). You'll place the stencil over a folded edge of the T-shirt and cut along it — and voila, you have a mask. Skip to 4:26 in the video below for the full tutorial.
    The "H" template (Sharon McNary / LAist)
  2. The second way requires a bandana and two hair ties. After making a series of folds, you have the option of inserting a sort of "filter" into the mask for extra protection. Sharon suggests a coffee filter, or any other kind of nonwoven fabric. Then, you'll use the hair ties to keep the mask intact and hang it from your ears. Skip to 7:35 in the video below for the tutorial.
    The folded bandana + hair ties method. (Sharon McNary / LAist)

ARE SOME MATERIALS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN OTHERS FOR KEEPING OUT PARTICLES?

The short answer is yes. Here is Sharon's more detailed answer:

"Tightly woven cotton, like what you see in (a) bandana, is going to be the best thing because it's washable, it's breathable and it's easy to sew with. You can iron it to sterilize it. You can wash it with soap, and it's not going to do weird things like silk or rayon or something like that."

Pro tip: to find out if something is tightly woven enough, hold the object up to the light. If you can see the light bulb through it, the fabric is not tightly woven.

IF THE MASKS DON'T STOP COVID-19, HOW ARE THEY HELPING ANYONE?

It's important to note that these homemade masks WILL NOT stop you from possibly transmitting the virus or catching it — but wearing a mask is better than not wearing one at all.

"The idea isn't that you're protected from breathing in a virus that's in the air. What the mask is doing is keeping your own droplets from hitting others."

While wearing a mask, you should still practice physical distancing and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.

By wearing a mask, Smith-Kang said it's signaling to those you come in close proximity to — grocery store workers, food delivery drivers, pharmacists and others — that you care about their health too.

HOW CAN I DONATE MASKS TO THOSE WHO NEED THEM?

The City of L.A. has launched a website, LA Protects, which contains information for organizations interested in producing and requesting face masks and other essential gear during this pandemic.


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