Knowledge Base

Quick Links

Common Questions & Policies

Which providers accept homemade masks?

A team of Million Mask Challenge volunteers is coordinating with more than 300 requesting health care providers and others. Health care providers include teams from hospitals and specialty practices, as well as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Our list of people requesting masks also includes:

  • First responders including police, firefighters, paramedics, and medical transport services.
  • Volunteers working in “front line” charities such as food pantries and homeless shelters.
  • Governments and businesses with critical workers, who are keeping things running so others can stay home.

We have received requests for more than 100,000 face masks from facilities all over the United States since we began on March 22, 2020.

Nearly 70 percent of our requests come from our region of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. About 90 percent of the masks we have made have gone to providers in these two states and the District of Columbia.

The remaining requests were from health care providers in other states, who are also facing emergency shortages of medical grade personal protective equipment. We have had craftivists who live in these other states do projects in their own regions.

Not all hospitals and practices will allow staff to have emergency two-layer cloth masks. So you should ALWAYS confirm prior to running a project. Or you can donate your masks to us because we have someone who wants every face mask, regardless of the pattern.

We are in the process of trying to complete regional requests from our area that still exceed 25,000 masks, as of April 22, 2020.

We are featuring specific projects on our Facebook page every week, under the “Commit to Stitch” campaigns for each organization. Join our community, then come over to Facebook and let us know you will help under a post. Every week, we collect and deliver your masks. Thank you for volunteering!

How do we decide who receives our masks?

We are providing face masks, all donated, to the following groups:

  • First, health care providers on the front lines are our top priority. This is why we organized. These people are our heroes and at highest risk. Since then, many other groups have come under directives to wear face masks and our mission expanded. However, front line health care providers remain our first priority.
  • Second, we are making masks for first responders such as police, firefighters, and paramedics; front line charitable volunteers; and some other critical workers. We have made masks for staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where they did not usually need to wear masks previously.
  • Third, we have made masks for extremely vulnerable patients, at the request of their doctors, such as for pediatric cancer patients to wear while receiving chemotherapy, when that provider is unable to provide medical masks for these kids.
  • Fourth, we have provided masks to other groups who often had donated their medical grade PPE to front line health care workers. Veterinarians and dentists, who closed or limited their practices, have in some cases donated their office medical supplies and needed something to wear.

Because of the huge demand, we have had to adopt policies, which are applied uniformly:

  • Our main policy is that masks are donated only to facilities that EXPLICITLY confirm to us that the masks are okay for staff to have. If a facility prohibits the use of cloth masks as an emergency measure, we will skip that facility and move onto the next one who will permit their use. We simply cannot afford to provide masks to facilities if there is any risk of the masks being thrown away or banned. There are simply too many facilities who have asked to have extra reusable cloth masks.
  • Requests are filled in the order that requests are received. If you work at a facility in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC, and you would like to receive extra facemasks made locally, please fill out the mask request form here. We are currently working through remaining requests for more than 25,000 masks.
  • We are prioritizing regional requests, and if and when those are fulfilled, we would switch to filling requests from other states.
Can I buy or sell face masks here?

No.

We have a STRICT no selling or buying of masks policy as part of our project. Ours is a charitable effort, with the focus on donating masks to those who need them most.

We also prohibit health care providers from going on our Facebook page, and directly soliciting makers to send them masks, for free or for payment. If you need masks for your health care organization, please fill out our mask request form.  We want to help all of our front line workers.

WHY? Because we have set up a system that allows us to get masks to those on the front lines as quickly as possible. If you are in our Facebook group, and are not here to contribute to this cause, then you need to leave. We will delete your comments, block your requests and remove you from the group.

Craftivists, we thank you for your hard work and want you to be assured your masks ARE headed to the front lines. If you have any concerns whatsoever, we ask that you please message an admin or moderator on Facebook. In addition, we welcome emails to volunteer@millionmaskchallenge.com, to discuss concerns about anyone’s behavior or ethics online.

We understand that some makers may need to sell masks as part of their livelihoods right now, during the start of a new recession. We support these makers. We all have to pay our bills. This is just not the place to do this activity.

Please be advised that our social media team reviews personal profiles and online footprints, and will determine if you are buying or selling masks, especially if you are seeking to use any donated supplies for that end.

We reserve the right to remove anyone, at any time, for any reason, from our organization and our online community.

How many masks have been made?

No one knows exactly how many face masks have been made. Our local craftivists have made more than 60,000 masks that we have tracked, along with the locations for their delivery, via a form on this website, as of April 2020. That’s about 12,000 masks per week, just from our volunteers! And there are many groups doing similar work.

Our regional goal is to try to influence and facilitate the making of at least 100,000 masks in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. We provide a real time count on our website home page to let you all know how we are doing. We believe we can do it!

Get PPE has been tracking the effort nationally, and found that as of April 2020, about 160,000 masks have been made nationally based on forms submitted on their website. Our organizing team believes that tally way undercounts the actual masks made nationally.

An Ohio sewing business that is encouraging mask making, and also selling sewing machines and kits, believes as many as 20-million masks have been made, based on hashtags and posts on social media. The truth is that it may be easier to ultimately quantify COVID-19 cases than it will be to absolutely count how many face masks have been made.

Based on similar Facebook groups, that have reported making tens of thousands of masks, our organizing team believes that nationally, we will certainly cross the “one million masks” goal.

Masks for Everyone

Normalizing Masks in Public

A User’s Guide to Face Masks

The New York Times published a comprehensive “User’s Guide to Face Masks” to help the general public shift to using face masks in many places and define terms for new mask wearers. It’s well worth a read for information about the general use of face masks in everyday life, especially if you are starting from scratch trying to figure this out!

What do the CDC, and others, say about this?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of cloth face coverings by everyone, particularly in COVID-19 hot spots, and particularly in places where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores or any doctor’s office waiting area.

The CDC statement on masks for everyone is as follows:

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

In health care settings, in emergency situations with no other medical grade PPE, the CDC released new policy to allow for the the use of DIY face masks, even a bandana or scarf. The recommendation was basically that anything would be better than nothing. (We believe our cloth face masks, if made as directed with two layers of densely woven quilter’s cotton, would be much better than a bandana, based on materials research.)

The Joint Commission of American Hospitals also released new policy due to current shortage of medical grade PPE in the United States, supporting the use of donated cloth masks when other PPE was not available, as an extreme measure.

In taking this position, The Joint Commission recognizes:

  • Hospitals must conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) when these items are in short supply to protect staff who perform high-risk procedures.
  • The degree to which privately-owned masks and respirators will increase the protection of health care workers is uncertain. However, the balance of evidence suggests that it is positive.
  • No Joint Commission standards or other requirements prohibit staff from using PPE provided from home.
  • Homemade masks are an extreme measure and should be used only when standard PPE of proven protective value is unavailable.

The Joint Commission is painfully aware of the current shortages of PPE, ventilators, and swab kits at hospitals and other health care organizations across the nation. It recently issued a public statement on shortages of critical medical equipment that strongly supports emergency efforts at the federal level to dramatically increase the production and distribution of PPE and other necessary medical equipment and supplies, as well as the availability of telehealth services.

To access The Joint Commission’s free guidance and resources on COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 response page.

Who should not wear masks?

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than two years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance, according to the CDC.

Do I still need to stay 6 feet away from others?

According to the CDC, the answer is yes: “Wearing cloth face coverings is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19. CDC still recommends that you stay at least 6 feet away from other people (social distancing), frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important if someone is infected but does not have symptoms.”

What are the regional rules for masks?

In Virginia, the governor said law enforcement would not enforce an existing law on the books that prohibits mask wearing, and encouraged all residents to follow the CDC recommendation to wear masks during any necessary trip anywhere. Virginia issued a stay home order.

In Maryland, the governor has required mask wearing in public places, public transit, food establishments, retail businesses, and other places, with the potential for fines or enforcement for those who don’t follow the rules. This includes anyone over the age of nine.

The mayor of Washington, DC, has issued an order that requires customers and workers in grocery stores, hotels, food establishments, ride shares, and other places, to wear masks.

For details, this WJLA ABC 7 piece covers key points of each area’s current requirements, as of April 16, 2020. Rules change frequently, and this FAQ just covers what we know them to be as of today.

Should I buy N95 masks for myself?

Surgical masks and N95 respirators are in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers or other medical first responders, as recommended by CDC guidance.

We hope you will consider making your own masks using resources on this website instead.

We understand that some people with underlying conditions and concerns, or vulnerable family members, have purchased medical grade masks. We suggest that you might try to donate unopened supplies to a nearby hospital if you have overstocked yourself.  You could try to extend the life of a construction-style, high quality mask that you have in your house, and wear it multiple times, by covering it with another cloth mask to try to protect the surface from contamination.

Concerns about contamination, fit, hand sanitation, and other safety guidelines apply. There is a contradiction if you are wearing a highly filtering mask while not having your full face and eyes covered. Our advice is to follow stay home orders, minimize trips, and never feel over confident — and do what you can to make sure the highest risk health care workers have a supply of the best PPE.

No Sew Masks – Quick and Easy

How can I make a quick no sew mask?

Here are a couple of guides to make a face mask quickly, as the CDC currently recommends that everyone wear face masks now when going out in public. However, public health officials have still asked that people make their own masks, in order to avoid putting even more pressure on the supply of medical masks required to keep front line health care workers safe.

Video Tutorial: How to make a quick, no-sew face covering  — This shows the easy technique, utilizing a piece of fabric and rubber bands, as demonstrated by the Surgeon General of the United States.

Japanese Creations DIY MaskNo-Sew Pleated Face Mask with Handkerchief and Hair Ties — These instructions “went viral” on March 23, 2020, and there is also a simple YouTube Video Tutorial. Make sure to choose the most densely woven fabric you can find. Hold it up to the light and see if you can see through it. The CDC also recommends adding a filter layer inside something like this if you have it. Remember to wash after each use, and then wash your hands.

Gina Tepper Local Influencer and Craftivist Makes MasksVideo Tutorial by Gina Tepper — Gina, a DC-area craftivist who has been sewing masks for the Million Mask Challenge, does feature spots for local TV stations about the arts and creativity. Watch as Gina shows how to finesse a no-sew face mask with the best materials you can find around the house, and get a better fit. Good if you have time to iron, and cut some material, but don’t want to sew. Remember to wash after each use, and then wash your hands.

No Sew Face Mask with LeggingsVideo Tutorial for No Sew Mask from Leggings — Join Life soup for their viral video explaining how to make a quick double-layer face mask from thick LulaRoe leggings. It takes a good pair of fabric shears, some thick leggings, and about two minutes of time. The leggings are easy to work with for a quick mask.

How to make a bandana face mask with hair ties, plus 3 other no-sew ways to make one  /  From Real Homes — Covers the no-sew bandana face mask with hair ties, simple t-shirt mask method, 3-layer mask from a tea towel or t-shirt, and no-sew headband/mask combo.

What is the CDC advice to make a quick mask?

Here is the CDC guide for a quick no-sew mask.
Click to download a PDF with instructions.

How do I make the “shop towel” mask?

Here are two takes on a Shop Towel Mask.

First, there is an entire Facebook group devoted to this mask, with videos and downloadable instructions.

Second, there is another pretty great YouTube video tutorial that shows how to make a version of this mask. This mask requires a small paper clip or twist ties, a blue shop towel from an auto supply store, clear tape, two rubber bands or hair ties, and a stapler.

(These are great for personal use, but keep in mind that many health care facilities have specifically asked that we NOT provide them with any blue masks, due to the potential to confuse these masks with medical grade, regulated PPE.)

Shop Towel Mask

 

 

Materials

Fabric

What kind of fabric is best?

The ideal fabric is a tightly-woven material. Whatever fabric you use, you will need to always use at least two layers. You can mix fabrics and have one type of fabric on the outside, and a second kind of fabric on the inside.

The best fabric for the face masks that we are making is 100% cotton. We ask that our craftivists source this material, with these notes in mind.

  • Seek out a high-quality, heavyweight “quilter’s cotton” with a thread count of 180 or more.
  • Batik fabrics tend to have a tight weave and use thicker thread, so those may also be ideal for face mask making.
  • The best homemade masks have been found to achieve 79% filtration with two layers of this material, when tested for filtration of particles 0.3 – 1.0 microns in diameter, according to a study recently released by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health. The worst achieve only 1% filtration. So choose wisely.
  • Does the fabric pass the “lightbulb test?” When you pull the material slightly, and hold it up to the light, can you see through it? If no light comes through, it is a better material to use.

Color and pattern does matter.

  • Some health care systems have specifically requested the use of patterned fabrics, and specifically, NO solid blue and NO solid white colors, which can lead to confusion with medical grade masks. In addition, some health care systems will not allow the use of blue and white patterns.
  • On the other hand, military and police organizations have REQUIRED the use of specific solid colors and developed criteria for face masks that must be worn by personnel now in public.

Both layers of fabric in your mask should look different, so it is obvious which side was worn on the outside and which was on the inside.

  • This allows someone to quickly tell which side of a mask was outward facing and more contaminated when removing and handling a mask. Or if the person is working after perhaps exposed to the virus, it’s also possible they may have more concerns about the contamination on the inside of the mask. Either way, mask wearers want to know what was outside and what was inside.
  • Awareness and care is critical when removing a mask, which should go straight into the laundry and not be placed anywhere where it could possibly spread germs.
  • Mask-makers TIP: Some mask makers achieve a different inside/outside, by simply flipping one of their pieces of fabric so the “wrong side” is visible on the inside of the mask.

We receive constant questions about different kinds of materials. Some of these are appropriate for home use / personal use. But we are not using them for our project.

The reasons for are choice of fabric are that health care providers have rejected certain materials. (Call it the “that’s a little gross” factor.) No, you should not repurpose sheets you have used or bra straps you have worn, for homemade masks given to HCP because this will be a step too far for the people receiving the masks. We note that:

  • Some of these materials would be totally fine, effective, and useful for masks worn by your family.
  • Some materials will not hold up during repeated washes at boiling hot water temperatures, which includes a lot of fabrics advertised as “antimicrobial.” But these materials might be okay for occasional hot washes after being worn during a trip to the grocery store, just not every single day washing.
  • Many organizations have released guidelines cautioning against the reuse of fabrics used in uniforms, where the material had been chemically treated.

Many studies have reviewed the following materials for their effectiveness, which you may certainly want to consider for masks you make for families and friends (just not our project):

  • 100% cotton fabrics, such as “quilter’s cotton”
  • Heavyweight cotton t-shirts (used in this article/study)
  • Flannel
  • Antimicrobial pillowcases or mattress covers
  • 400-thread-count+ sheets

Here’s a look at the performance of various kinds of materials tested in a 2013 study for their effectiveness at filtering out microbes, viruses, and other tiny particles, when used in DIY cloth masks.

T-shirts and pillowcases appear lower on the list, but create masks that have a better fit, which leads to the the masks more being effective since you don’t want to have a lot of gaps around your face.  This graphic was compiled by the folks at smartairfilters.com, who have collected information about air quality and filtration issues.

Smart filter graphic

 

How many layers of fabric?

Based on all of the research that we have reviewed, our patterns include at least two layers of a quality, densely woven fabric.

A single layer may be best for breathability, but we want to use two layers to protect as much as we can — so stick with two layers! The more layers, the more filtration, but also the more difficult it becomes to breathe, ad the more someone may fuss with the mask. Most of the studies we reviewed evaluated two-layer masks.

When we are designing masks to go over a tightly fitted N95 respirator and protect the N95 from contamination, we do not include more layers, interfacing or things that will make it absolutely impossible to breathe. Please follow our patterns and instructions. They have been discussed with health care providers.

We have used two mask patterns that do have a pocket, where a third layer of extra filtering material can be positioned. The first is the basic mask, adapted to include a pocket. Heres a link to the “Basic Mask with Pocket Pattern.”  The second is the “Olson” mask design.

Can I use cotton t-shirts and knit materials?

At this point, we are not recommending knit material or cotton t-shirts for our project’s masks. These materials are difficult to sew with, and may not hold up well under multiple washings. There are many ideas online, however, for using heavyweight cotton t-shirts for masks for a family.

What about a cotton/poly blend?

We recommend sticking with a 100% densely woven heavy cotton fabric for masks submitted to us.

Should I wash fabric before I sew?

Yes, you should wash all fabric you receive PRIOR to sewing with it!

Please use the highest heat setting, to both pre-shrink and also to disinfect any materials. Remember that masks need to be washed repeatedly with hot water settings.

Then, after your fabric is washed, iron and cut your fabric for your pattern.

We also recommend regularly wiping off / disinfecting your cutting board, tools, and work space, to stay well. And wash your hands frequently.

Should I sew interfacing into my mask?

Please don’t sew odd layers of different kinds of interfacing into your masks.

If you want to add a filter, make your mask a “pocket” mask and allow someone to slide in an extra filter layer that way so it is replaceable. Remember that these masks will need to be washed on hot to clean them, and we have found that well intentioned interfacing layers, when sewn in, simply did not hold up in the laundry.

Ties and Elastic

What is bias tape?
What is bias tape?

Bias tape or bias binding is a narrow strip of fabric. It is cut at a certain angle from a larger piece of fabric, so the strip is stretchier as well as more fluid and more drapeable. 

Many strips can be pieced together into a long “tape.” The tape’s width varies from about 1/2″ to about 3″ depending on applications. Many types of bias tape you can purchase have the sides folded in so the raw edges are together. 

You can use bias tape to make the ties for your masks.  We recommend using about 1 inch wide bias tape, folding it in half so the raw edges are enclosed, and then sewing it shut.

Runa Qaderi of Ashburn made these beauties.A common hack is to not INSERT the ties while sewing a mask. Instead, some craftivists just stitch bias tape or fabric ties up the outside of the sides of the mask. Here is a picture from Millon Mask Challenge craftivist Runa Qaderi, who was dropping off these beauties in Ashburn, to help you to visualize this tactic.

The simple face mask pattern by the team at Johns Hopkins Medicine also recommends this technique, if you want to read some instructions.

What is a fabric tie?

The fabric tie we refer to in our patterns is essentially a strip of fabric where you fold the raw edges in, then fold it in on itself again to mimic the bias tape that is often purchased. Right now, bias tape is in short supply, but you absolutely CAN make your own fabric ties.

We have made a tutorial video with time-saving tips, and provided detailed instructions for you to download.

Also, if you access to the technology, you can consider 3D printing a fabric tie making tool, to make the process faster. You can make a device that folds 1-inch, 1.5-inch, or 2-inch fabric (bias tape) into strings for protective masks, so you can just sew the folded material.

Finally, there are bias tape making machines that you can purchase, which further automate the process.

For our mask patterns, we recommend 20 inch ties, times four ties, so you do need a bit over 6 feet for each mask. This is to allow the users of the masks to tie them in bows and repeatedly reuse them.

To make your own ties, you would use about 1.25 square yards of fabric per ten masks, or a little more than that.

What are the pros and cons of elastic?

We get mixed feedback from providers about elastic.  Some prefer the ease of the elastic, while others prefer the comfort of the ties.

In addition, we have had concerns about whether elastic will hold up to repeat washing at high temperatures, which is necessary for masks that will be used repeatedly.

You can use either elastic on the basic mask patterns, but please use ties for the N95 cover masks pattern we provide.

Due to shortages of elastic, our basic mask patterns ONLY use ear loops and do not increase the amount of elastic to go all the way around the head.

The pediatric basic mask pattern is made with elastic because it is easier for kids to take on and off.

With thin elastic, or a thin beading cord, please note that sewists knot the ends of the material that is sewn into the corners of the mask.

Why aren’t you recommending t-shirt ties?

T-shirt ties are very handy, but we’re concerned they won’t hold up to the repeated washing these will face when used in a health care setting. Health care providers also expressed concerns that the stretch may affect fit, as far as the mask becoming loser and less secure over the time of wear.

If you’ve already made them, they’ll be appreciated! Please go ahead and send them to us.

But please consider grosgrain ribbon or making your own fabric ties for future masks. T-shirt ties are absolutely fine for home use or masks that won’t be washed every single day at the highest heat settings.

We recognize that right now, many materials are in short supply as normal distribution systems have been disrupted. So being creative with masks made for friends and family is an essential component of this project.

Filters and Pocket Inserts

Coming Soon!

Coming soon…

Fundraising & Supplies

Don’t sew? Donate! 

How can I support you if I don’t sew?

First, you can fund us! We have a GoFundMe campaign to purchase supplies to make more masks. Each mask costs about $1 to $1.50 to make, sometimes more. Many of our craftivists have already donated hundreds of dollars in materials and time, so we are buying supplies to make kits to help the “power sewists” make more masks as fast as possible. In addition, we are hosting t-shirt fundraisers and other special events.

We need volunteers to make deliveries, cut fabric, and do publicity and outreach so we can recruit more sewing volunteers. You can sign-up to help here, and depending on the current needs, someone will reach out to you.

In addition, we are accepting donations of quality supplies, primarily 180-thread-count, heavyweight 100% quilter’s cotton and densely woven batik fabrics. We also need donations of ⅛-inch and ¼-inch elastic, ⅜-inch cotton twill tape, oversized Ziploc plastic bags, and other items. Questions about donation collection can be directed to: maskcollection@millionmaskchallenge.com

Supply Swaps with Other Craftivists

I’ve got no budget. Where can I find supplies?

There are a variety of sources for free or discounted supplies. We recommend that you:

  • Search for the supplies MEGATHREADS album on our Facebook community. For craftivists in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, region, this is a good way to find folks who can donate or swap supplies with you. It is a generous community.
  • Consider dropping off masks at a “Drop and Swap” collection box in our region. You will be provided a map of current “drop and swap” sites, after you complete a “masks ready form.” You can leave your masks in the collection box, and then pick up some fabric or other items. Availability varies widely, especially as supplies have become more scarce and we are putting more of our donations into kits for experienced craftivists who have proven they can make a lot of masks quickly!
  • Seek out supplies yourself on places like freecycle.org.
  • Reach out to family and friends, and ask if they will fund you and supply you.
  • Apply to receive a “Sew Ready” kit with free supplies to keep sewing. Masks MUST be returned to us. These kits are available to makers who have already made and donated masks, so we have certainty the masks made will return to us.
  • Check out other national efforts to provide free supplies such as the Joann’s “Make to Give” campaign.

Please don’t go out to search stores for supplies. Try to order online and practice physical distancing for pickups and dropoffs. Wash hands after handling and even disinfecting packages. Please be careful because we need to continue to #flattenthecurve.

The value of materials and supplies donated to this effort, which became face masks, is already greater than $70,000 — just by our single organization’s count, as of April 2020.

Free “Sew Ready” Kits

How do I obtain a “Sew Ready” kit with free supplies?

Our Sew Ready Kits contain enough pre-cut material (fabric and elastic or twill/ribbon) for 10, 20 or 30 masks.  Completed masks should then be returned to the Million Mask Challenge within 7 days for distribution by us to health care and front line workers in need.

Anyone who has previously donated masks through Million Mask Challenge for distribution by us and completed our Masks Ready Form is eligible for a kit. 

Other craftivists with confirmed, personal donations may also be eligible depending on the availability of kits.

Sew Ready Kits are limited in number, so unfortunately we aren’t able to fill every request that we receive. Please visit our kits page for more information.

Medical PPE Donations

Where can I donate medical PPE?

We support and endorse other efforts to get medical grade PPE for providers!

Do you have actual N95 respirators, plastic gloves, or other items a health care provider could use? Can you help fund efforts to buy extra supplies for hospitals in the United States? We recommend working with these projects:

In addition, we have a regional bulletin board that notes such requests for our area.

For Groups Requesting Masks

I made a request, but haven’t heard from you!

Over the first month, our craftivists made more than 70,000 masks.

As of the second half of April, we are working through confirmed and prioritized requests to provide an additional 25,000 face masks locally. Orders are being fulfilled in the order we received them, going to organizations that will accept the masks and confirm they need them prior to delivery. We received requests from more than 300 organizations, and are promoting projects weekly on our Facebook page under the “Commit to Stitch” campaign.

If you submitted a request through our website, we have it, and someone will be contacting you or featuring your project soon.

Questions can be directed to the fulfillment team at: info@millionmaskchallenge.com

Please know that sometimes we cannot respond within hours or even with a day, given the volume of requests. Someone will be contacting to confirm your organization’s policies regarding masks, and the quantity and kind of things requested. Then you will be contacted a second time regarding a delivery window and the process for that. Please keep in mind that we are a 100% volunteer organization, that formed only a few weeks ago. We do believe that we will be able to give every single organization that meets our policies some face masks. But it’s going to take another month of constant sewing to get there, within our region.

If you contacted us from another state, we will not be able to fulfill your request until we have met needs that are immediate and regional in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. We made a decision to go local early on, because our region of 7-million people needed support. Also, we wanted to reduce extra trips of items through transport services right now.

My hospital does not allow masks. Can I request?

Masks that we receive are donated only to facilities that EXPLICITLY confirm to us that the masks are okay for staff to have. Our fulfillment team talks to each facility or organization, to verify the official policies, and to confirm each request.

If a facility prohibits the use of cloth masks as an emergency measure, we are very sorry, but we will skip that facility, and move onto the next one who will permit their use.

We simply cannot afford to provide masks to facilities if there is any risk of the masks being thrown away or banned. There are simply too many places who have asked to have extra reusable cloth masks as an emergency measure.

How do we decide who receives our masks?

We are providing face masks, all donated, to the following groups:

  • First, health care providers on the front lines are our top priority. This is why we organized. These people are our heroes and at highest risk. Since then, many other groups have come under directives to wear face masks and our mission expanded. However, front line health care providers remain our first priority.
  • Second, we are making masks for first responders such as police, firefighters, and paramedics; front line charitable volunteers; and some other critical workers. We have made masks for staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where they did not usually need to wear masks previously.
  • Third, we have made masks for extremely vulnerable patients, at the request of their doctors, such as for pediatric cancer patients to wear while receiving chemotherapy, when that provider is unable to provide medical masks for these kids.
  • Fourth, we have provided masks to other groups who often had donated their medical grade PPE to front line health care workers. Veterinarians and dentists, who closed or limited their practices, have in some cases donated their office medical supplies and needed something to wear.

Because of the huge demand, we have had to adopt policies, which are applied uniformly:

  • Our main policy is that masks are donated only to facilities that EXPLICITLY confirm to us that the masks are okay for staff to have. If a facility prohibits the use of cloth masks as an emergency measure, we will skip that facility and move onto the next one who will permit their use. We simply cannot afford to provide masks to facilities if there is any risk of the masks being thrown away or banned. There are simply too many facilities who have asked to have extra reusable cloth masks.
  • Requests are filled in the order that requests are received. If you work at a facility in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC, and you would like to receive extra facemasks made locally, please fill out the mask request form here. We are currently working through remaining requests for more than 25,000 masks.
  • We are prioritizing regional requests, and if and when those are fulfilled, we would switch to filling requests from other states.

Regional & National Links

Out-of-State Craftivists and Providers

I live elsewhere; can I participate with you?

Absolutely! And when you are finished, please tell us what you made here, to be added to our tally.

About 85% of our face masks are going to providers in the Washington, DC; Virginia; and Maryland region, where we are based. Our goal is to help influence the making of one million face masks nationally, and about 100,000 specifically in our region.

You may mail your face masks to us at:

Million Mask Challenge
4909 16th Road North
Arlington, VA 22207

Or you may want to donate to a regional hospital near you. We recommend exploring these two resources to connect to other craftivists and health care providers who are in need, closer to you:

I’m a provider in another state. Can I get masks?

If you contacted us from another state, we will not be able to fulfill your request until we have met needs that are immediate and regional in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

We made a decision to go local early on, because our region of 7-million people needed a lot of support and the needs were overwhelming. Also, we wanted to reduce extra trips of items through transport and mail services right now. The more people move around, the more likely there is potential to spread this virus, and COVID-19 is our enemy.

We are sorry that we may be unable to help. Once we finish filling our remaining MD, VA, and DC requests for about 25,000 masks in April and May, we would begin filling the requests received nationally, for as long as people will sew for us.

We suggest seeking help from a regional group:

Are all these groups connected? Who is in charge?

We are stitched together in national moment of creativity and determination. We are making history, both literally and figuratively.

We have received elastic from New Jersey and donated fabric from California. We have shared patterns and tips with crafters in Nebraska and Tennessee. We love craftivists everywhere who have risen to this challenge.

But no one group is “in charge” of what is essentially a spontaneous, national grassroots movement.

There are very strong regional groups around the United States. We have all shared information and supported each other. We have been proud to represent and organize craftivists in our nation’s capitol region, and to serve as hopefully thought leaders in this movement.

But any one group that tries to take credit for the creativity of the tens of thousands of mask makers would diminish the empowerment that so many people have felt by participating individually in this collective action. Together, we all individually made a decision to defy our isolation and to come together to make a difference.

 Mask Safety, Care & Wear

How do I wear a face mask safely?

Face masks must be fitted and worn properly to make a difference.

This video tutorial explains how to to put on and take off a mask carefully, to avoid contaminating yourself and getting sick as a result.

Masks should be changed out every few hours during their use, and should be handled with care in order to prevent the masks themselves from becoming a transmission point for germs. Then they should be washed again. When the mask comes off your face, it should be going straight into the washing machine. While wearing a mask, try to avoid touching and adjusting it.

You should be washing and sanitizing your hands before and after touching your mask.

A loose, ill-fitted mask won’t help you. Proper wear means a snug fit, and if trying to create a more complicated mask design with a filter, there can’t be gaps at all. The CDC has provided tips for the public when wearing different kinds of masks.

Also, a homemade face mask, or a store-bought one, should not give you false sense of confidence to venture out, especially if you have been asked stay home. Please stay home, especially if ordered to do so.

I may be sick. Can I make masks?

The answer is no. Thank you for being willing! But please don’t make masks.

We need to be sure that we are protecting our health care providers as best as possible. Especially with the limits and delays on testing, if you are feeling ill, please don’t make any masks.

Maybe there are other ways to help by funding other craftivists, or doing media or public relations work from home. Please fill out our volunteer form if you would like to contribute in these other ways. And if you discover you are sick with COVID-19, but have made masks, please let us know.

We require that all masks are provided with instructions that clearly indicate that all masks should be washed on a high heat setting prior to their first use, to address concerns about this issue.

Mask Instructions - Print at Home

How do you clean and wash masks?

The CDC says a normal hot wash cycle in a home washing machine is FINE for cloth face masks. Then you dry your mask for the longest time and at the highest heat setting in your dryer. We feel you should not worry if it’s not crisply pleated after several washes, but you can always iron a mask.

For masks with ties, try to wash them using a mesh wash bag, such as you might use for delicates. That will prevent them from getting tangled.

The Los Angeles Times did a short story on mask care, where public health officials recommended: “frequently washing cloth face masks — ideally after each use, or at least daily. Place the coverings in a bag or bin until they can be washed with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle (or at least washed with hot, soapy water). If you have to wear the covering again before washing it, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. And throw out any masks that no longer cover your nose and mouth, have stretched out or damaged straps, can’t stay on your face, or have holes or tears in the fabric.”

How hot is hot? The optimal “temperature of at least 160°F (71°C) for a minimum of 25 minutes is recommended,” according to the CDC recommendations that relate to medical settings. “Water of this temperature can be provided by steam jet or separate booster heater. The use of chlorine bleach assures an extra margin of safety. A total available chlorine residual of 50–150 ppm is usually achieved during the bleach cycle. Chlorine bleach becomes activated at water temperatures of 135°F–145°F (57.2°C–62.7°C).”

For people handling possibly contaminated laundry, the CDC recommends:

  • Immediately remove and wash clothes or bedding that have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
  • Wear disposable gloves (if you have them) while handling soiled items and keep soiled items away from your body. (Or you can wear a washable pair of gloves and toss them in with the items.)
  • Clean your hands (with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after removing your gloves and/or after handling the laundry.
  • Read and follow directions on labels of laundry or clothing items, and detergent. In general, you can use a normal laundry detergent, and follow washing machine instructions at home. Use the hottest temperature recommended for the clothes.
  • Dry thoroughly using the warmest temperatures recommended on the clothing label.

Consumer Reports has also published advice regarding household cleaners and the novel coronavirus

Are these face masks approved medical gear?

No, the face masks we are making are not an approved medical device, as regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration

The FDA has published extensive guidelines for how they are regulating medical face masks and respirators right now, including some measures intended to ease the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) nationally.

Some mask-making groups have tried to use words like “CDC-compliant” or even claim to be endorsed specifically by the Centers for Disease Control, which has provided us with a letter that there is NO such national face mask making group that is, or will be, endorsed by the CDC.

The products that we are making are not FDA cleared or approved, although the FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for certain kinds of face mask products in certain situations right now.

We cannot claim any specific level of effectiveness for the masks that we have made, given the range of makers and possible materials.

But we do intend to guide best practices for this effort, and there is substantial positive evidence to support the wearing of face masks such as we are making, both as an emergency measure and as a public health strategy to combat COVID-19.

Here are some resources explaining the major policy guidelines for face masks during the current pandemic.

  • The CDC released strategies to optimize the the supply of face masks for health care providers, including:
    • Recommending cancellation of non-emergency procedures, rationing of existing supplies, limits on use of supplies during training and fitting, and use of other measures such as various protective barriers and other steps to isolate possible COVID-19 patients.
    • Recommending measures to extend use of medical grade face masks, including taking measures to prevent the exterior of medical grade masks from becoming soiled or contaminated.
    • Developing new guidelines to allow the extended use and reuse of N95 respirators, due to the critical supply crisis.
    • Prioritizing the best PPE for highest risk workers, and not for patients, where supply is not sufficient to protect the health care workers.
    • Moving health care workers who are older or have underlying health conditions away from potential contact with COVID-19 patients.
    • Using plastic face shields over face masks, to try to prevent the masks from becoming contaminated.
    • Allowing for the use of homemade masks: “In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.”

In addition, click here for an extensive list of research about the effectiveness of basic face masks. The list is curated by data scientists, and indicates how basic masks can be effective in reducing virus transmission in public. Research scientist Jeremy Howard wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post on March 28th, in support of everyone wearing simple DIY face masks in public, before the CDC officially recommended this measure.

 

What do the CDC, and others, say about this?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of cloth face coverings by everyone, particularly in COVID-19 hot spots, and particularly in places where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores or any doctor’s office waiting area.

The CDC statement on masks for everyone is as follows:

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

In health care settings, in emergency situations with no other medical grade PPE, the CDC released new policy to allow for the the use of DIY face masks, even a bandana or scarf. The recommendation was basically that anything would be better than nothing. (We believe our cloth face masks, if made as directed with two layers of densely woven quilter’s cotton, would be much better than a bandana, based on materials research.)

The Joint Commission of American Hospitals also released new policy due to current shortage of medical grade PPE in the United States, supporting the use of donated cloth masks when other PPE was not available, as an extreme measure.

In taking this position, The Joint Commission recognizes:

  • Hospitals must conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) when these items are in short supply to protect staff who perform high-risk procedures.
  • The degree to which privately-owned masks and respirators will increase the protection of health care workers is uncertain. However, the balance of evidence suggests that it is positive.
  • No Joint Commission standards or other requirements prohibit staff from using PPE provided from home.
  • Homemade masks are an extreme measure and should be used only when standard PPE of proven protective value is unavailable.

The Joint Commission is painfully aware of the current shortages of PPE, ventilators, and swab kits at hospitals and other health care organizations across the nation. It recently issued a public statement on shortages of critical medical equipment that strongly supports emergency efforts at the federal level to dramatically increase the production and distribution of PPE and other necessary medical equipment and supplies, as well as the availability of telehealth services.

To access The Joint Commission’s free guidance and resources on COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 response page.

Should I wash fabric before I sew?

Yes, you should wash all fabric you receive PRIOR to sewing with it!

Please use the highest heat setting, to both pre-shrink and also to disinfect any materials. Remember that masks need to be washed repeatedly with hot water settings.

Then, after your fabric is washed, iron and cut your fabric for your pattern.

We also recommend regularly wiping off / disinfecting your cutting board, tools, and work space, to stay well. And wash your hands frequently.

Is coronavirus in the air? Or on my mask?

Yes, it can be found in droplets in the air. The National Institutes of Health released a study that found the virus could be found in the air in droplets from where a person coughed or sneezed up to three hours later.

This study also reported on transmission potential and viral shedding at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The study found the virus contaminated commonly used items, toilet facilities, and air samples, noting, “these results suggest that virus expelled from infected individuals,
including from those who are only mildly ill, may be transported by aerosol processes in their local
environment, potentially even in the absence of cough or aerosol generating procedures.”

In addition, according to a study published in The Lancet Microbe, infectious virus could be detected on the outer surface of a surgical mask seven days after exposure.

This kind of data is why public health officials recommend being careful with hand sanitation before and after removing masks, and the immediate washing of worn cloth masks with hot water in a normal washing machine. This is also why the CDC recommended the wearing of face masks in public places, to both contain the virus being expelled by asymptomatic infected individuals as well as to provide greater protection to well individuals.

Can I stop glasses from fogging over my mask?

Yes, you can! According to a tip published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, the way to avoid the annoying fogging up of your glasses is this:

“Immediately before wearing a face mask, wash the spectacles with soapy water and shake off the excess. Then, let the spectacles air dry or gently dry off the lenses with a soft tissue before putting them back on. Now the spectacle lenses should not mist up when the face mask is worn.

The face mask directs much of the exhaled air upwards where it gets into contact with the spectacle lenses. The misting occurs from the warm water vapour content condensing on the cooler surface of the lens, and forming tiny droplets that scatter the light and reduce the ability of the lens to transmit contrast. The droplets form because of the inherent surface tension between the water molecules. Washing the spectacles with soapy water leaves behind a thin surfactant film that reduces this surface tension and causes the water molecules to spread out evenly into a transparent layer. This ‘surfactant effect’ is widely utilised to prevent misting of surfaces in many everyday situations.”

Should both sick and well people wear masks?

Everyone out in public should wear a mask at this time, according to the CDC recommendation. Sick people, who know they are sick with COVID-19, should not be out in public; and if they must go somewhere, should absolutely wear a face mask or other face covering.

As many as one out of four COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, according to the CDC. And that presents problems for others if you think you are okay, but really you are contagious and contaminating everything around you with the virus. This is the thinking behind the idea to recommend mask wearing for everyone at this time.

Even the most simple, homemade mask is very effective at trapping droplets from your coughs and sneezes.

A recent study published in Nature from the University of Hong Kong and the University of Maryland asked 111 people, infected with various viral illnesses (influenza, rhinovirus and a more-mild coronavirus), to exhale into a giant funnel. Sometimes their noses and mouths weren’t covered; other times they used a simple, not-particularly-well-fitted mask. Without the masks, the infected people exhaled contagious droplets and aerosols, tiny particles that linger in the air, about 30 percent of the time they were tested. When the infected patients wore a mask, it blocked nearly 100 percent of viral droplets.

“If we look at all the results together, we found that masks were able to stop most virus-laden respiratory droplets and some of the virus-laden aerosols,” said Ben Cowling, at the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong, and the study’s senior author, according to a report in The New York Times. Here is a link to the study on how face masks can make a significant impact in reducing the transmission of viruses such as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

 

Sewing Basics

For the Beginner

I am a beginner. Can I still make masks?

Yes! Our patterns are directed at all levels.

People need face masks right now; it is OK if a seam isn’t picture perfect!

It is also okay if you make only 5 masks or 10 masks, while others make hundreds.

EVERY face mask matters to the person who receives it.

 

Can I use a serger or a zigzag stitch to make my masks?

Can I use a serger or a zig zag stitch to make my mask, as opposed to sewing right sides together and then turning inside out?

We do not recommend using a serger or zig zag stitch by itself to make your masks.

Healthcare providers have given us feedback that the masks need to be able to hold up well under heavy washing, and a mask with serged or zig zag stitch may not be able to sustain many repeated washes at high heat.

Machine Repair

Coming soon! Machine repair tips.

Tips and Tricks

Coming soon! Hacks we love.

Pattern Questions

What is the finished height of our masks?

For the adult and N95 cover mask patterns, the finished height will be around 4 to 4½ inches. 

For the child-sized basic face mask, the finished height will be about 3½ inches. 

What is the difference between the two main patterns?

The N95 mask cover is designed to be used OVER an actual N95 respirator. (The N95 masks themselves CANNOT be made out of fabric.) It’s difficult to breathe for longer than 15 minutes in an N95, so the mask cover we make does NOT have more than two layers.

The main difference in our patterns is in terms of size. The regular mask is initially cut to 7 inches tall, versus the N95 cover that is 9 inches tall. In addition, the basic mask pattern has sizes for both adult and kids, as well as an option for a pocket insert.

You pleat them both down to about the same height. The extra height in the N95 cover gives you a bit more coverage for going over a medical grade N95 mask when it is worn.

Why did you choose patterns and sizes?

Our leadership team spent hours testing and discussing patterns with health care providers. The emphasis in our first month was to use the patterns that fit well and were quickest to make. For this reason, we encouraged people to sew and focus on two options, a basic face mask and a larger version of that mask, which can work as a cover for an N95 respirator.

We also initially avoided pockets, because inserts are NOT very effective at improving a face mask’s efficiency if your don’t have a perfect fit. We didn’t want to give any craftivists a false sense of security about the effectiveness of any handmade mask. Also, these took longer to sew and we felt that we were really in an emergency where we needed to try to provide tens of thousands of masks as quickly as possible.

Coverage of a Basic Mask over N95We next developed a pattern to make simple covers for N95 respirators. These medical grade masks are the best thing available to health care providers, and some were being forced to try to use the same N95 masks for as long as a week at a time. You can see from this photo that a basic cloth face mask does not cover a larger N95 very well.

We routinely get asked if people can make masks any size they want. We will accept all masks. However, we do want to provide certain sizes for specific reasons. We really appreciate those masks we receive that are more standardized.

Now that we have filled many requests, we are adding additional patterns, some of which could add an extra level of filtration, but only if worn properly and when combined with other tactics, including sanitation and hand washing.

The number one request of health care providers, first responders, and others remains the most basic face mask, made with the highest quality materials that are available.

Should I sew interfacing into my mask?

Please don’t sew odd layers of different kinds of interfacing into your masks.

If you want to add a filter, make your mask a “pocket” mask and allow someone to slide in an extra filter layer that way so it is replaceable. Remember that these masks will need to be washed on hot to clean them, and we have found that well intentioned interfacing layers, when sewn in, simply did not hold up in the laundry.