How to make cloth masks

A few important points to remember before you begin making masks:

  1. Learn how to wear masks properly before you start using them.  Please see instructions on how to wear masks on the next page.
  2. Donate masks: If you want to donate these masks, do not make them if you or anyone in your household is ill or have had exposure to COVID-19.
    1. Getusppe.org is great site for donation for the entire US.  It allows you to donate your supplies to the most needed locations in the US.  Click on Make PPE, read Step 1- read Info before you click on Give PPE to choose locations where you want to donate.  New York and California are hard hit.  Please consider donating any extra surgical masks or N95 to these “red” areas.
    1. For Donations to Local Hospitals, consider National Jewish Health or Operation We Can Sew It.
  3. Pattern: Do not deviate from the pattern as it may compromise the filtration efficiency.
  4. Materials matter
    1. Based on results published by Davies et al., in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness in 2013, cotton appears to be the best material based on the filtration efficiency (FE) test which measures how well a material filters out organisms.  The higher the FE is, the better the material is for mask making.  Common household materials such as a tea towel, a 100% cotton T shirt or cotton mix should work well.
    1. Cotton fabric with high thread count and tight weave is recommended.
    1. Avoid using linen or silk as their ability to filter out organisms appear to be low.
    1. Avoid flannel or thick cotton that may reduce the “breathability” of the masks. 
    1. Vacuum cleaner bags may offer additional filtration as this material has a high FE similar to surgical masks based on the study cited above.  An unused and clean vacuum cleaner bag cut into the shape of the mask may be inserted into the “pocket” of the mask, although questions remain as to how effective this strategy may be.  There is also lack of data on how often this type of makeshift filter can be cleaned and reused.  I would not recommend making the entire mask from these bags as the material is not comfortable and may not fit to the face as well as cotton.
    1. You could consider using an old 100% cotton fitted bedsheet with a high thread count to make masks.  In addition to the fabric, you can repurpose the elastic band from the fitted sheet.
    1. Hair ties and old clothes with elastic bands can be used in making the masks.   Pipe cleaners, paper clips, picture hanging wires all work well for nose wires.

Filtration Efficiency tests (adapted fromDavies et al., in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness in 2013)

Material                                                                         Filtration Efficiency

100% cotton T-shirt                                                                 50.85%  Scarf                                                                                         48.87

Tea towel                                                                                   72.46

Pillowcase                                                                                  57.13

Surgical mask                                                                             89.52

Vacuum cleaner bag                                                                  85.95

Cotton mix                                                                                70.24

Linen                                                                                         61.67

Silk                                                                                            54.32

Please note that this information was obtained from US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health.  This statement has not been approved by the FDA and is not intended to be used beyond the current CDC recommendations for the use of cloth face coverings during this pandemic.  Premier allergy and all of its employees cannot make claims as to the safety and efficacy of these masks in preventing any disease or illness, including, but not limited to COVID-19.

How to Put the Mask On

1. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or alcohol-based sanitizer). Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and throw the paper towel away. 

2. Make sure the exterior side of the mask is facing out, away from your face.

3. Place the mask on your face with the exterior side facing out and the stiff, bendable edge at the top by your nose. Try to use the ties and avoid touching the inside/outside of the mask.

4. If the mask has ties, pick up the mask by the ties and tie the upper ties behind your head with a bow.  Masks designed by National Jewish has a head loop that you pull to tighten from below the mask.

5. If the mask has a lower tie, tie the lower ties behind your head with a bow. Try to pull the mask tight then tie it in a bow.

6. Once the mask is in place, use your index finger and thumb to pinch the bendable top edge of the mask around the bridge of your nose.

7. Make sure the mask is completely secure. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth so that the bottom edge is under your chin.

8. Wash your hands.

While Wearing the Mask During the Day

1. Do NOT pull the mask down like one would a scarf on a ski slope. Adjustments should be made using the ties or cord at the neck or on top of the head. 

2. Avoid touching your face even when the mask is in place.

3. Every time you do touch the mask for any reason, wash your hands before/after touching the mask. 

Removing the Mask

1. Wash your hands before removing the mask.

2. Do not touch the inside or outside the mask as it may be contaminated.

3. Untie or remove the head or ear loops and remove the mask by the straps.

4. Wash your hands.

Cleaning the Mask

1. At the end of the day, take the mask off from the straps (not touching the front), loosely knot the ties together, place in a pillowcase or laundry bag to keep the ties with the mask if you have it. 

2. Wash it in the washing machine with hot water and completely dry on medium or high heat.

Instructions on how to make cloth masks. 

Adapted from the National Jewish Health web site.  Special thanks to Andrea Wolf and Kali Hendon for your contributions. 

Please note that these cloth masks are not FDA-regulated medical devices.  They are not intended to be used beyond the current CDC recommendations for the use of cloth face coverings during this pandemic.  Premier allergy and all of its employees cannot make claims as to the safety and efficacy of these masks in preventing any disease or illness, including, but not limited to COVID-19. 


(2) outer mask sides (2) inner mask sides

cord/tie 60” long (1) 2 ½” long piece of ½” wide elastic

nose wire consisting of: (1) 3” long piece of wire (1) 3 ½” long 1” wide piece of fabric

Glue – craft, fabric, white, or wood glue all seem to work well.


All components should be prewashed using machine wash on the highest heat setting, then machine dried completely on medium to high heat before cutting them out.

  • Fabric – a lightweight but tightly woven cotton. NO FLANNEL PLEASE.  Using contrasting fabrics for the inner and outer masks will allow the wearer to easily identify the inside/outside of the mask.  If possible, choose light-colored fabric so soiling is easy to see. 
  • Cord – a round, woven cord similar to a shoelace works best but twill tape or something similar will suffice.
  • Elastic – Elastic band, found in old clothes or fitted sheets; ribbon style hair tie made with elastic.
  • Wire – medium weight electrical, jewelry, picture framing wire, and even a paperclip or pipe cleaner have all worked. It should be sturdy but flexible enough to easily sew in and to pinch to the wearer’s nose. Best test would be to try forming it to the bridge of your nose and make sure it stays put.
  • Elastic and Wire – both of these components help the mask fit tightly to the face, but if materials are not available the masks can be sewn without them.

Construction Steps: See Instructional Video

  1. Assemble the nose wire first so the glue can dry. Cut wire and fabric to encase it to length. Apply a small amount of craft glue along one edge of fabric, center the wire lengthwise and side to side and fold the fabric over the wire, let dry before sewing. Wire should be close to folded edge.
  2. Draw out the pattern on craft paper to the correct size then pint o fabric and cut 2 outer masks and 2 inner masks. Remember, the inner mask is the larger pattern.
  3. Sew together the faces (right sides) of outer masks along the longest curved edge.
  4. Repeat step 3 with inner masks.
  5. Step for making a pocket:
    • Fold inner masks in half horizontally, then cut along the fold to create top and bottom pieces. This will later become a pocket for the addition of a removable filter.
    • Fold the long flat edge (the part you just cut) over by ¼” and sew in place the entire edge.
    • Repeat step 5b on the second piece of the inner mask.
    • Overlay the two pieces by ¼” and sew together on each side. Sew in for 4” for a large size mask, or 3” for a small size mask. This will allow for a 3” gap in the middle, so that the pieces are not attached and a removable filter can be inserted. Make sure to keep pieces overlaid by ¼”.
  6. Press open the seam allowances for the upper 1” of the inner and outer masks. Sew together the inner and outer masks along the top edge. It is easiest to align the center seams if one starts at the center point (where the center seams meet) and sews outwards, repeating for the second side.
  7. Attach the nose wire by centering the fabric wrapped wire on the center front seam and topstitching the length of the wire as close to the wire as possible. The lengthwise raw edge of the wrapped wire should face towards the raw edges of the mask, and the rolled edge towards the seam. Make sure that the ends of the fabric encasing the wire are folded over the ends of the wire and are stitched down.
  8. Trim the seam allowance the length of the nose wire to 1/8” from the stitching attaching the nose wire to the mask. This will reduce bulk at the center front junction.
  9. Sew the inner and outer masks together at the bottom edge.
  10. Stretch the cut piece of elastic between the notches, centering it over the seam sewn in step 9 and then topstitch it.
  11. Turn the mask inside out.
  12. Top stitch along the bottom edge of mask, 1/8” from the edge while pulling to extend the elastic; this is to smooth and secure the elastic. (You will be sewing through both layers of fabric and the elastic while it is extended).
  13. Serge or zigzag the inner and outer masks together at each side.
  14. Fold 6” of one end of the twill tape/cord in half lengthwise.
  15. Lay the mask inner side up and lay the twill tape/cord next to the serged/zigzagged edge (step 10) with several inches of the cut end of the cord extending beyond the bottom of the mask.
    1. It is important to make sure that the loose ends that tie extend from the bottom of the mask as it will be tied around the wearers’ neck, the loop will fit over the head.
    1. Fold the serged/zigzagged edge over.
  16. Topstitch ½” from folded edge to form a casing, making sure not to catch the cord in the stitching. Repeat with the second side, making sure that the length of cord between the two sides is not twisted.
  17. Knot both cut ends of the cord so it will not unravel or slide through the casing when it is washed.