Coronavirus Information Center

With the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control’s) recommendation to cover one’s face to prevent the spread of coronavirus, many Americans are searching for ways to cover their nose and mouth.

They write:

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.  CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

So what can be used for a substitute?

According to this chart, materials such those found in kitchen towels and vacuum bags may be the next best thing.


Although they pale in comparison to the efficacy and protection offered by N95 masks they can be used in light of the CDC’s recommendations.

So here are some options on how to cover your nose and mouth:

Vacuum Bag Mask

FQD30N1K84NECL4.LARGE.jpg offers instructions on how to make a mask out of a vacuum bag.

Dishtowels and T-Shirts


Heddel’s gives you the step by step breakdown of how to cut and create earloops for a T-shirt, and similar instructions can be used for a dishtowel.

Bandanna or scarves



These can be easily folded and manipulated to cover both mouth and nose.  The more folds the better to allow extra layers over nose and mouth but ensure mouth and chin are covered.

Avoid large gaps between eyes and cheeks as pathogens can sneak down under the covering.


Although not the most politically correct these days, panties do have the elastic and variety of shapes that may conform to the face and allow protection.



And of course a bra with an ample cup size may also be used if an adequate seal can be secured around the face and mouth.

bra mouth cover.jpg

Other do-it-it yourself ideas

For those of you with more artistic qualities, these are other ideas:

CNN and Tom’s Guide gives the following options for face protection.

And Julie Eigenmann offers a video demonstrating how to make a simple face mask here.

Again, surgical masks and N95 respirators are not available and if become available are necessary for the front line healthcare workers.  So if you do make your own mask  remember that social distancing, hand washing and changing out one’s facial covering if it becomes wet or soiled are also crucial to preventing the spread of COVID.

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP