How to make a DIY no-sew face mask from common household materials

Last Updated May 2020
By Sian Babish

Did you know you can make no-sew face masks from materials around the home? It’s easy, and definitely worth learning if you’re running low on disposable face masks or don’t have the sewing chops to make your own.

No-sew face masks can be made from almost any garment or scrap, preferably those that are 100% cotton. It only takes a few strategic folds, and before you know it, you have a backup mask on hand. 

Wondering where to start? Our team put together this DIY no-sew face mask guide to make the process as simple as possible. Keep reading to find out how you can repurpose cotton items like bandanas or old t-shirts. 

Rounding up supplies

As far as DIY projects go, supplies for this project are relatively easy to pluck from around the home. To keep things simple, we’re sticking two main components: pieces of cloth that are 100% cotton and elastic hair ties. Depending on your choice of cotton item, you might also need scissors to cut it into shape. If you want to add an extra layer, we recommend putting a paper coffee filter in between layers of fabric.

If you’re wondering why 100% cotton is emphasized, it’s because the weave of cotton is less flexible than other materials. This means that its “holes” will stay uniform in size, which is not the case with stretchy materials. Flexible fabrics like polyester or Spandex often have larger holes through which more airborne particles can pass.

 

Popular choices for all-cotton items

As long as your all-cotton item yields an 18- by 18-inch square, you’re good to go. If dimensions are any smaller, you won’t have enough length to secure the ear loops. 

Bandanas: At the top of our list are basic cotton bandanas or handkerchiefs, which most people have lying around their homes. Not only are the dimensions of bandanas ideal for folding, they’ve likely been washed quite a few times — so they’re definitely on the softer side.

Cotton garments: Now is the time to round up those old cotton t-shirts, tank-tops, or pajamas that you haven’t worn in ages. Check labels to confirm they’re 100% cotton, as you might be surprised to find some are made with cotton blends — which aren’t recommended for this DIY project.

Fabric craft remnants: In your big box of DIY supplies, you might have quilting or crafting remnants. So long as they’re all-cotton, you can use them to create no-sew masks. An added bonus is that they usually feature fun patterns or designs. 

 

Elastic hair ties

Elastic hair ties are ideal to convert into ear loops for no-sew masks. There are several types of hair ties, but if possible, stick to ouchless ones. These don’t have those tiny metal bars, meaning your ears won’t get scratched or cut when you remove the mask. 

Thicker hair ties are also recommended, as they hold up to more wear and tear. If you only have thinner hair ties on hand, use more than one. 

How to make A no-sew mask

Here are our instructions for making a no-sew mask with a bandana, a paper coffee filter, and two elastic hair ties.

Step one

If you have a bandana or handkerchief, you’re ready to begin. Otherwise, you’ll need to cut material to approximately measure 18 inches by 18 inches. Once you have the appropriate dimensions, lay the material on a flat surface, smoothing it out where necessary. Place the coffee filter in the center.

Step two

Fold your square horizontally once, then a second time around the centered coffee filter. This leaves you with a long, thin rectangle. Once again, smooth out wrinkles in the square to eliminate any fabric bunching or puckering. 

Step three

Fold the long sides of your rectangle one more time. If you’re using a coffee filter or any other filter material make sure that your second fold leaves it in place in the center of your mask. 

Step four

Take the hair ties and slip them over the short sides of your rectangle. Aim to place them approximately three inches from the edges. This also helps to provide slack for adjustments when the mask is on your face. Once the hair ties are looped on, your rectangle should resemble a piece of candy inside a wrapper. 

Step five

Fold the outer edges of the rectangle toward the center, using the hair ties as crease guides. Once folded, you’ll notice that the new short edges of the rectangle have become the outer loops of the hair tie. Now you have a face mask!

Step six

Pick up your new face mask gently by the loops, using your thumbs to hold the excess fabric in place. Place the face mask across your face and loop the hair ties over your ears.

This gives you your basic mask shape, and if you need to make any fine adjustments, simply pull the fabric from the middle to create more slack or coverage where needed. 

Voila — your DIY no-sew face mask is complete!

Life hacks for no-sew face masks

Now that you have a simple DIY no-sew face mask, you might be wondering how to boost your wear experience. Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered (no pun intended).

Bobby pins: Once you’ve adjusted your face mask, make sure your minor tweaks stay in place by securing them with bobby pins.

Minimize fog: If you wear eyeglasses, adjust your no-sew face mask up the bridge of your nose so your glasses lay over it to minimize fog.

Spare hair ties: When using your no-sew face mask, always carry spare hair ties. If one falls on the ground, it’s more hygienic to just leave it there and use your backups instead.

Car-ready kit: Keep a set of material and hair ties in your car at all times. In the event you forget your regular face mask at home, you can create a no-sew mask in your car so that you’re still allowed in stores.

Resealable plastic bag: When you remove your no-sew face mask, place it in a resealable plastic bag until you’re able to wash it. The mask should be washed after every wear.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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