Knowledge Base

Hello! This is our old FAQ. It is not being updated, but we are leaving it up in case there is valuable information for sewists and volunteers. The pandemic isn’t over yet, sadly. We encourage you to upgrade your masks to N95s, KN95s, or KF94s, now that there is more supply, because COVID-19 is an airborne disease and these masks may fit tighter than cloth masks. Another option is to double-mask with a cloth + surgical mask, or to use a mask brace to tighten your masks on your face. Remember most mask leakage happens around the edges from an ill-fitting mask. With cloth masks, multiple layers of a tightly woven fabric, plus a nanotech filter insert is preferable.

Thank you for wearing a mask and helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 

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.

 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

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.

 

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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. 

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.

No Sew Solutions

Medical Grade Projects

How do I make N95 covers with surgical drape?

Some organizations are making disposable N95 covers, using surgical drapes and other office supply materials. We have had only a few hospitals near us request these. We do not have an active lead for this project and are not organizing this locally at this time. However, we wanted to save and share this information.

One note of caution: PLEASE don’t go online and purchase things marked “sterile,” because healthcare providers are trying to buy more of those supplies. If you have a pilot project and want to share, please contact us — if you can be a primary organizer.

Instructions: No Sew, Office-Supply Face Mask Covers, video and details

How do I make a DIY face shield? (No 3D printing)

Face shields are recommended over homemade emergency use masks, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health care providers wear face shields over masks, because they are a waterproof barrier and protect the eyes.

Michaels has created a tutorial on how to make an acetate face shield without 3D printing. You will need acetate sheets, some elastic and cording, scissors, and a stapler, plus a 1-inch thick self-adhesive polyurethane foam strip.

Click here to go to the website and review the instructions.

3D Printing Projects

How do I make a bias tape tool?

Bias Maker - 3D patternUse 3D printing to make a device that folds 1-inch, 1.5-inch, or 2-inch fabric (bias tape) into strings for protective masks. Fabric ties are durable in the washing machine, and eliminate the need to source other materials that can be difficult to find. This device does not require ironing. The folded tape is fed directly into a sewing machine. This makes the creation of tie strings for protective masks extremely fast and easy. The two sections fit together to make a single device so both folds can be done at once (see photo).

DOWNLOAD: Thingiverse Page / Project Files.

DOWNLOAD: Thingiverse version with notches for pins.

How do I 3D print an ear saver?

These devices are awesome! They allow someone to use basic masks with different sizes of elastic loops, and avoid getting rubbed raw behind the ears. The mask fits behind the head, and holds the mask in place. There are several effective designs, and if you have a 3D printer at home, all of these devices you can print WILL be used and much appreciated, if you can include them with your bags of masks.

DOWNLOAD: Thingiverse Page / Project Files.

DOWNLOAD: Files by FunBotics,  a teens-led STEM teaching organization (COMING SOON!)

DOWNLOAD: “S” shaped Ear Saver hook / Thingiverse Project File

DOWNLOAD: “Heroes” Ear Saver / Thingiverse Project File

Ear Saver File - Photo of Device

Ear Saver Photo - 3D Printing Project

How do I 3D print a face mask?

The Stopgap Face Mask consists of two main components (the mask body and the filter cover) and contains features for attaching two elastic straps and receiving a patch of filter material.  It is recommended that the rectangular filter patch and elastic straps are disposed of after every use of this device. The remaining parts of the plastic mask can be disinfected using common disinfecting solutions or sterilized and reused.

DOWNLOAD: NIH 3D Print Exchange / Project Files

We would love to add additional 3D printable mask files, if you are with a hospital that has TESTED these and has one to recommend specifically to us. We have not been collecting 3D printable face masks, but we want to continue to encourage creative problem solving and would certainly consider it.

How can I make face shields?

The 3D printing community is making face shields that can be worn over a surgical mask to protect eyes and other parts of the face from contamination. The shields can be cleaned off and sterilized more easily than N95 masks.

A maker group in Baltimore is leading this effort locally.

Links for the Makers Unite! Face Shield Project:

Second version: Thingiverse files with remix of the Prusa Printers project, reviewed and approved by the National Institutes of Health.

Where can I find other kinds of projects?

More than 70,000 makers are developing ideas for open-sourced medical supplies within this huge community that includes all methods of manufacturing, not just sewing:

Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies – Facebook Community

Volunteer

Do you need more sewists?

Yes!!! The need for face masks continues, as does a need for additional surgical caps and other items.

The battle against COVID-19 will be a marathon and not a sprint. We anticipate we will be sewing into early summer, maybe longer. And we can also provide leadership and help to our family and friends — after we take care of nurses, doctors, and others.

Please invite anyone interested in becoming a sewing volunteer to our Facebook page.

Also, please invite them to sign-up here and receive a welcome note with instructions.

How do I get involved to make masks?

The process to participate is easy!

I filled out a form, but didn’t hear from you!

We’re sorry if something did not arrive in your email with instructions! You should have received a welcome email with the basics. Please check your spam folder for our Mail Chimp subscription opt-in email, and you may want to search for any lost emails from info@millionmaskchallenge.com.

If you wanted to join our leadership team, or had another query, we may be experiencing a few growing pains going from two people to a community of more than 4,000 people in just 28 days. Please direct emails with such questions to: volunteer@millionmaskchallenge.com

Right now, our greatest need is really for sewists.

The process of participation is pretty simple.

Join the Million Mask Challenge today, download our mask patterns, and get sewing!  

Come join us in our Facebook group. where more than 4,000 craftivists, organizers, and donors can come together to talk about the latest from the CDC, exchange sewing tips and tricks, and have some fun while we all work to make a difference. We are stitched together, even if physically distanced.  

When you are finished, please tell us how you completed the challenge!

If you have questions about where and how to donate your masks, you can direct those to: maskcollection@millionmaskchallenge.com

We’ll provide you with information on how to drop off your masks at local collection boxes, so they can be delivered to local health care workers, first responders, and others. (Or you can mail your masks to Million Mask Challenge, 4909 16th Road N, Arlington, VA 22207.) That’s basically all you need to know!

Thank you for being part of our collective action!

I’m homebound — how do I get my masks to you?

We do offer pick-ups. However, we ask that you PLEASE take your masks to a collection box or mail them to us at 4909 16th Road North, Arlington, VA 22207 if possible.

To request a pick-up, please fill out the donation form. Make sure to hit submit, and you should receive an email confirmation within the hour if your form went through.

You will be asked to confirm your email, your phone number, and your street address.

We need 72 hours to respond to you, in order to schedule pick-ups.

Then we will try to complete pick-ups within a week after that. Thanks for your patience and thanks for making masks for others!

How do I share a great idea?

We invite you to discuss ideas with other volunteers on our Facebook chat page.

Or you may send us an email to info@millionmaskchallenge.com.  We can’t respond to all emails, but we will definitely review all research, studies, and ideas sent to us!

How do I join your leadership team?

Reach out on Facebook. Reach out via email.

Let us know your skills and expertise.

We have asked folks to share their skills on our sign-up form, and indicate their desire to help with organization.

We are sorting through offers to help and to organize. Let us know if you want to organize a specific group of people, if you can drive and make deliveries, or if you have an interest in helping to moderate social media, etc.

Research Databank

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.

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.

 

How bad is the shortage of PPE?

Our national shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has created devastating issues, and extra trauma and stress, for many health care providers and others. As the novel coronavirus began to creep across the country in March 2020, the United States had on hand perhaps 1 percent of the 3.5-billion N95 respirator masks that experts said would be required to fully protect our front line health care workers and others, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This has led to the rationing and reuse of medical grade PPE, contrary to all past guidelines, as well as to  workers going without medical grade PPE. Since the Centers for Disease Control recommended that everyone should now be wearing a face mask when out in public, there has even been pressure put on supplies of homemade cloth face masks, as well as every single material that is dominant in handmade mask making.

The emails and phone calls that we have received can be upsetting, as health care professionals report shortages of medical grade N95 respirators, scrub gowns, scrub caps, plastic face shields, and other materials that they need to protect themselves to do their jobs.

For the past month, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association has consistently reported at least six or seven Virginia hospitals are generally within 72 hours of a shortage of supplies. We have received similar details from health care facilities in both Maryland and Washington, DC.

We do not share stories from specific facilities that contact us with the public or media.

But we have noted some disturbing inequities with smaller providers, serving lower income populations. Also, we have noted that many nursing homes and senior living facilities just did not seem to have the larger reserves of supplies that some larger healthcare facilities had, near the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

Here are some news stories about the PPE shortage:

We apologize if some of these may be behind a paywall or may require an email to access them. We recommend supporting the work of journalists during this time, to document issues such as the PPE shortage.