Coronavirus: How to make and wear a face mask

11 May 2020, 16:23

By Megan White

The Government has now changed its advice on wearing face masks, advising people in England to wear them while on public transport or in shops.

On Monday, a 50-page 'road map' detailing life under lockdown was published, detailing a three-step plan - starting with relaxing some lockdown measures while still enforcing social distancing rules.

After weeks of speculation on whether those in England should wear face coverings, the government has now said that homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances.

But how can you make one and how are they worn correctly?

A Tube passenger wears a face mask on the Northern Line
A Tube passenger wears a face mask on the Northern Line. Picture: PA

How to make a face mask

Using a T-shirt

You will need: an old T-shirt that you do not want anymore (ideally size small or extra small) and a pair of scissors

Step 1: Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt (front and back) approximately 20cm from the bottom of the T-shirt.

Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt
Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt. Picture: HM Government

Step 2: From a point 2cm below the top right-hand corner of the fabric, make a 15cm horizontal cut through both sides of the fabric that is parallel to the top of the rectangle.

Step 3: Cut down towards the bottom of the fabric until you reach approximately 2cm above the bottom edge. From here, make another 15cm cut that runs parallel to the bottom of the fabric to make a rectangle that can be discarded.

To make the ties, cut open the edge of the 2 long strips of fabric
To make the ties, cut open the edge of the 2 long strips of fabric. Picture: HM Government

Step 4: To make the ties, cut open the edge of the 2 long strips of fabric. Unfold the main piece of fabric and place over the mouth and the nose. The 4 strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place and should be tied behind the head and around the neck.

A sewn cloth face covering

You will need: two 25cm x 25cm squares of cotton fabric, two 20cm pieces of elastic (or string or cloth strips), needle and thread, scissors.

Step 1: Cut out two 25cm x 25cm squares of cotton fabric. Stack the 2 squares on top of each other.

Step 2: Fold over one side by 3/4 cm and hem, then repeat on the opposite side. Make 2 channels by folding the double layer of fabric over 1.5cm along each side and stitching this down.

Fold over one side by 3/4 cm and hem, then repeat on the opposite side
Fold over one side by 3/4 cm and hem, then repeat on the opposite side. Picture: HM Government

Step 3: Run a 20cm length of elastic (or string or cloth strip) through the wider hem on each side of the face covering. These will be the ear loops. Use a large needle to thread it through. Tie the ends tightly.

Run a 20cm length of elastic (or string or cloth strip) through the wider hem on each side of the face covering
Run a 20cm length of elastic (or string or cloth strip) through the wider hem on each side of the face covering. Picture: HM Government

Step 4: Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the covering on the elastic and adjust so the covering fits your face. Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping. These elastic loops fit over the ears.

Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem
Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Picture: HM Government

How to wear a face mask

A cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off and after use.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose. Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched.

You should wash a face covering regularly. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent.

When wearing a face covering, take care to tuck away any loose ends.

The Surgeon General of the US makes his own facemask
The Surgeon General of the US makes his own facemask. Picture: CDC

Are face masks compulsory now?

The Government has not yet made face masks mandatory, however it is now advising people in England to use them on public transport, at work and while out shopping - where social distancing is not possible. This is a shift from its original stance.

A lengthy document published by Number 10 on Monday says the new advice comes as a result of people returning to work.

“This increased mobility means the Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops,” it says.

The fresh guidance adds that “homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances”.

It says Brits should try not to use surgical face masks - such as FFP3, N95 or FFP2 - to ensure there are enough supplies on the NHS front line. This is similar to in the US, which has advised use of cloth face coverings.

It also warns that face coverings “should not be used by children under the age of two, or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly”, such as primary school children or those with asthma.