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To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends that everyone should wear a fabric face covering in public. Consequently, there’s a big interest in making face masks at home. 

The cloth face coverings help remind us to not touch our faces, and cut down on the spread of germs through coughing, sneezing, or even vaping. With merely cloth between you and the airborne particles, the maximum filtration power is not as good as N-95 and surgical masks - but they are the way to help slow the spread of coronavirus. 

However, there are easy ways to improve the amount of filtration in a homemade mask. By using vacuum cleaner bags designed to remove the tiniest of air particles as a filter, you can easily make a mask much more effective. 

For comfort and efficiency, any mask filter material should be placed between two layers of fabric. Our instructions for an easy, no-sew mask make this possible, and there are no special skills or equipment needed. We have also included a tutorial on how to make a homemade mask with a filter pocket.

 

Read on to find out how you can make these masks to protect yourself.

 



 

 

 


Why Not Buy A Face Mask Instead?

There are multiple reasons why it is a better idea to make a homemade mask instead of buying one.

First, there is high consumer demand for medical masks in the U.S. During the four weeks ended Feb. 22, 2020, the sales of medical masks were up by 319%, according to Nielsen Retail Measurement Services. This has left healthcare providers concerned that there will be a shortage of masks and they will be at risk while caring for sick patients. It is best that the general public leave the supply for health professionals.

 

Secondly, the purchase of household maintenance masks has also drastically increased by 262%. This means it is going to be a lot harder for shoppers to get their hands on them.

Thirdly, the costs of face masks have surged. With COVID-19 spreading around the world, sellers have increased their prices as much as four or five times. As an example, a 10-pack of 3M N95 respirators were roughly $18.20, and then the cost skyrocketed to $99.99.

Amazon is attempting to stop third-party sellers from exploiting the outbreak. A spokesperson for the company said they were “disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers." However, Amazon does struggle to police its market.

Making your own face mask may save you time and money, while also ensuring you’re not taking away any protective equipment from your healthcare workers.

How Effective is a Mask Made From a Vacuum Bag?

A mask is only effective if it provides full coverage from your mouth to your nose. It must also be made from appropriate materials.

Research from Cambridge University has shown that homemade masks from vacuum bags are effective.

As displayed in the below chart, the vacuum bags captured 86% of 0.02-micron Bacteriophage MS2 particles. The coronavirus is around 0.1 microns, 5 times larger than Bacteriophage MS2.

This means that the vacuum filter material traps the particles, preventing them from infecting the person wearing the mask.

Therefore wearing a homemade mask made out of a vacuum bag is the next best thing to wearing a surgical mask in order to protect yourself. 

Our vacuum bag media is made from melt-blown fabric. This is a material that has a fine mesh of synthetic polymer fibers. When worn with a face mask, these fibers protect the wearer from airborne particles while also allowing them to breathe easily. Our vacuum bag media does not contain fiberglass.

A DIY face mask made with one of our vacuum bags can be effective, but only if it is made and worn correctly.


Steps for Making a Face Mask With Filter Pocket

To make your own face mask with a pocket opening to hold a filter, you will need to have the materials and also follow the step-by-step tutorial.

Materials Needed:

  • Vacuum cleaner bag 
  • Template to cut the bag into the correct sizes
  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • One 9 inch x 12 inch piece of tightly woven cotton fabric
  • Two 7 inch pieces of ⅛ inch flat elastic 

    Step-by-Step Tutorial

    1. To cut the vacuum cleaner bag, open it up and remove any cardboard pieces. Use the template to cut your filters. Keep both layers of the bag together after they are cut - they need to be used together. Keep your pre-cut filters secure and clean in a plastic bag or airtight container until you use them
    2. Fold the piece of 9 inch x 12 inch fabric in half, with the right sides facing each other so it measures 9 inch x 6 inch
    3. Sew a 1/4 inch seam across the top edge, leaving a 3 inch opening in the middle
    4. Bring the seam to the center instead of at the top. This makes it easier to press the seam open
    5. Press the seam open
    6. Insert and sew elastic in place. It can be easier to tuck it in there and pin the ends in place and remove them before you sew. The ends of the elastic should be right inside the folds
    7. Stitch along both ends with a 1/4 inch seam. This will make sure the elastics are secure and in place
    8. Topstitch a 1/4 inch seam across the bottom and top of the mask
    9. Make two pleats on each end. Make sure the pleats are facing down on the front aide. Pin them in place
    10. Sew along the edges of the mask to hold the pleats in place
    11. Insert the filter into the pocket
    12. The mask is now ready to use. Place it over your nose and mouth and loop the elastics over each ear.

    Steps for Making a No-Sew Face Mask

    To make your own face mask at home, you will need to gather specific materials mentioned below and also follow the step-by-step tutorial.

    Materials Needed:

    • A bandana made of cotton or cotton blend fabric. These are the most comfortable to wear, and the easiest to launder. The standard bandana size you’ll need is 20 inch x 20 inch square. These already have finished edges, and are ready to use
    • Scissors
    • Vacuum cleaner bag 
    • Template to cut the bag into the correct sizes
    • 2 elastic hair ties or rubber bands for each mask. If you have difficulty finding these, strips from elastic bandages can also be used - you’ll need to cut and tie them to a comfortable size

    Step-by-Step Tutorial

    1. To cut the vacuum cleaner bag, open it up and remove any cardboard pieces. Use the template to cut your filters. Keep both layers of the bag together after they are cut - they need to be used together. Keep your pre-cut filters secure and clean in a plastic bag or airtight container until you use them
    2. Fold the bandana in half. You’ll now have a piece of double-layered fabric in front of you 
    3. Center the piece of vacuum cleaner bag in the middle of the fabric rectangle
    4. Fold the top side of the fabric halfway down and the bottom side halfway up, so that they meet and overlap slightly in the center. They will now totally cover the filter fabric 
    5. Place a rubber band, hair tie, or loop of elastic around each end of the folded fabric, moving them toward the center until they’re about 6 inch apart 
    6. Leave the elastic bands where they are. Now, fold the ends of the fabric to the center, so that they touch. Tuck the fabric in neatly
    7. Gently pull the elastic bands to the outer ends of each side of the mask. The filter fabric will now be centered inside the fabric, so that it covers your nose and mouth when the mask is worn 
    8. The mask is now ready to use. Place the mask over your nose and mouth, and loop the elastic over each ear to check the fit.

     

    How to Care For Your Homemade Mask

    The CDC recommends that fabric masks are laundered routinely, depending on how often they are used. This mask can be washed in a washing machine. At this time, discard the filter fabric, and replace it with a new piece after you’ve laundered the bandana. 

    These pre-cut vacuum cleaner bag filters can also be used in any fabric mask that comes with a pocket. The pocket allows the filter media to be added in between the two layers of fabric. The pocket secures the filter in place while the wearer is venturing into public or crowded places. This greatly boosts the amount of protection the mask provides. Inserting and removing the filter from the pocket is also incredibly easy because of how they are made.

    This simple mask meets all the CDC guidelines, including a snug but comfortable fit, secure ear loops, multiple layers of fabric, allowing for breathing without restriction, and able to be machine washed and dried without shrinking.

    FAQ

    Is the mask and filter FDA approved?

    Homemade masks and filters are not considered PPE and not FDA approved.

    Is this a replacement for an N95 mask? 

    A homemade mask that contains a filter made from a vacuum bag is made of two layers of fabric with an inner pocket. It does not filter the transmission of particles as effectively as an N95 mask and it is not a replacement. However the mask does offer a significant amount of protection.

    How effective are the filters made from vacuum bags?

    Provided the homemade mask is made correctly and the filter is cut and inserted the right way, you will be better protected from airborne particles. Research from Cambridge University has shown that vacuum bags capture 86% of particles as small as 0.02-microns, and the coronavirus is 5 times the size of that figure, at around 0.1 microns.

    What are the vacuum bags made out of and do they contain fiberglass?

    Our vacuum bags do not contain fiberglass. They are manufactured of spunbond meltblown spunbond, commonly known as SMS. A non-woven fabric, it is made from a combination of polyester and polypropylene fiber. The synthetic polymer fibers that form the inner layer of the mask allows the wearer to breathe while also protecting them.

    Where can I buy vacuum bags?

    You can purchase the vacuum bags here.

    How do I change the filter?

    Wash your hands first and then simply remove the filter from the mask. It should be replaced with a new filter. Wash your hands after you are done removing the filter.

    Can the filter be used more than once?

    The filter must only be used one time considering that you will be in an environment that may leave you exposed to contaminated particles. You can reuse the mask by washing it.

    How can I help?

    With every purchase of our filtration media, we donate a filter media bag to an organization in need, such as a nursing home or hospital. This means that every time you purchase our vacuum bags, we will make an equal donation as part of our You Buy & We Donate campaign.

    Key Takeaways:

    By using this homemade mask and not purchasing an N95 respirator or surgical mask, you are also helping public healthcare providers by ensuring they are heavily protected when treating infected patients.

    It is a no-sew mask that can be made in just a few minutes. It combines superior HEPA filtration with a fabric covering that makes it breathable, which also adds an extra layer of protection. You will breathe in fewer contaminated particles when you wear it on your public outings.

    Just simply follow the tutorial’s step-by-step instructions. If you have any more questions, refer to our FAQ page.

     

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