How to Make a CDC-Approved Cloth Face Mask (and Rules to Follow)

The time has come to start covering your face. As we reported April 3, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends all citizens voluntarily wear a cloth face mask for essential trips out of the house to the grocery store, doctor, or other public places where the 6-foot social distancing rules may be difficult to maintain. In short, most places.

Wearing a cloth mask might help protect people around you, if you happen to be infected with Covid-19 but do not have symptoms yet. (These are Covid-19’s typical symptoms.) Some individuals infected with Covid-19 never show symptoms or do not get very sick, especially if they are young. Basically, these masks mainly help others, not you—though if used properly, a cloth mask may help you avoid touching your face and infecting yourself while out of the house.

Be sure to frequently wash masks in the washing machine with regular detergent.

Updated April 23: We updated links, checked information in this article, and added a section on how to approach buying a mask, if you plan to do that.

Whether you are wearing a face covering or not, the CDC still recommends that you:

  • Wash your hands regularly. Use soap and water, and wash them for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is acceptable to use if you are unable to wash your hands.

  • Cover your face when coughing with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.

  • Avoid touching your face, because you could transmit the virus from your hands into your mouth.

  • Stay at home, except for essential trips outside like trips to the grocery store or to see your doctor. This is also called sheltering in place.

  • Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other people. The White House also recommends avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people, which should be easy because you’re staying at home.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces daily (here’s our Covid-19 cleaning guide).

Some Mask Rules:

  • Do not buy and hoard medical masks. Health care professionals are already facing a devastating shortage in supplies, and we should not use protective masks that ill patients and health care workers may need.

  • Do not put a face mask on kids under 2 years old—or anyone who has difficulty breathing or might be unable to remove the mask themselves.

  • Do not remove a mask by its mouth area. Grab it by the straps. Wash your hands after touching it.

  • Do not just wear a standard bandana or scarf. Follow the instructions below to create a mask that has multiple layers and more tightly covers your face.

3 Ways to Make Your Own Face Covering

The CDC released directions for several DIY masks, as well as a short instructional video outlining its no-sew mask-making advice. We’ve put the instructions below.

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