Published on April 3, 2020

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Washing your hands, staying at home, and practicing good social distancing are all measures you can take to protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19. But now the U.S. is expected to add an additional recommendation to those guidelines: wearing a face mask. While N95 masks are in limited supply and should be reserved for medical professionals, you can easily make your own cloth covering at home, which, in combination with those other preventative measures, can help reduce the rate of infection. And you don’t even need a sewing needle.

You can simply use a square handkerchief or a piece of fabric: Studies have shown that cotton is the most effective household material for catching microbes. To secure it, use two hair ties. If you don’t have those or they feel too tight on your ears, you can also cut the top of a pair of socks to create two soft, stretchy loops. Here’s how to assemble the mask step-by-step—we followed the instructions from the blog Japanese Creations:

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Lay the handkerchief, bandana, or piece of fabric flat. Fold the bottom inward, then the top.

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Flip it over. Fold the bottom in again, then the top.

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Slide a hair tie or sock loop onto each side, and fold the ends of the fabric inward—this is the side that will directly cover your nose and mouth. Put the mask on by pulling the hair ties or loops over each ear and adjusting the fabric to fully cover your chin to your nose. Be sure to clean the mask after each use and keep washing those hands.

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