By Brian Maass

(CBS4) – Homemade masks – made of everything from pillow cases to t-shirts to vacuum cleaner bags – have been shown to filter out virus droplets and reduce the growth of illnesses like coronavirus by as much as 10%, according to some scientists. That may sound modest, but experts say a 10% effect could be huge.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s certainly prudent to use one if you can make one out of the materials you have in your home,” said Dr. John Adgate, an exposure scientist with the Colorado School of Public Health.

With Gov. Polis calling Friday for all Coloradans to wear masks when they go out, many may be wondering what material they should use to construct a DIY mask and what else they should consider when making a mask.

RELATED: Coronavirus In Colorado: Governor Asks Everyone To Wear Masks

Adgate said how the mask fits is as important as the material used.

“Fit is as important as the filtration,” said Adgate. He said if the mask doesn’t seal to your face, “It’s not as good as you might think.” Adgate said make sure it fits tightly which helps filter what you bring in via your mouth and nose and what you project out into the air.

(credit: CBS)

Studies have shown commercially produced N95 masks are indeed the most effective in preventing the spread of viruses and germs.

But a study by the Stanford University Anesthesia and Informatics and Media Lab showed after a commercially produced mask, the next most effective material is a vacuum cleaner bag.

(credit: CBS)

RELATED: Latest Updates On The Coronavirus Outbreak In Colorado

After that, researchers found that a ‘tea towel’ or common dish towel was also somewhat effective in protecting the wearer and those around him or her. Also on the list as being somewhat effective are pillowcases, cotton t-shirts and linen.

”The most effective things at filtering have a lot of surface area so particles bump into things and stay there.”

Researchers in England found similar results with their study, giving high marks to vacuum bags and dish towels.

“Something is better than nothing,” said Adgate, and other researchers have widely echoed those sentiments.

However another issue to consider – while vacuum bags and dish towels may be reasonably effective, they may end up being harder to breathe through and thus more uncomfortable for the wearer. Comfort may well dictate how long someone wants to wear a mask.

(credit: CBS)

Adgate and other researchers point out an added benefit of a DIY mask is it may discourage the wearer from touching their own face, a known path for people to become infected by coronavirus.

Experts caution that homemade masks should not provide a false sense of security and a face covering is not a substitute for regular hand washing and social distancing.

(credit: CBS)

You are also advised to regularly wash your DIY mask if it is made out of a washable fabric.


National Jewish Health posted a pattern and instructions for the type of mask they think is best. It requires a sewing machine.

Making a diy mask with fabric and rubber bands:

Youtube features many guides for how to make your own DIY mask:



Brian Maass