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Guidelines For Making Cloth Face Masks

Updated: May 26

After many conflicting messaging around the prevention of COVID-19, we now know that even a cloth face mask is better than no face mask. Here's how to make – and safely use – cloth face masks.

Cloth face masks can be easily made at home and are cost effective.

The Western Cape Government has published detailed information, but we break it down for you here.

Whether you’re wearing a mask or not, you should always:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap & water

  • Avoid touching your face

  • Cough or sneeze into the corner of your arm

  • Keep at least 1,5m away from others

  • Stay at home if you’re ill, rather ask someone else to buy essentials.

Keep healthcare workers safe and do not use N95 respirators or medical masks

Healthcare workers are on the frontline fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and they need these specialised masks to keep them healthy to keep saving lives.

Make, or source, your own cloth masks

A mask limits the transmission of droplets from coughs and sneezes, as well as limiting inhaling droplets from others. This is especially useful in overcrowded areas such as shops and taxis, but you can wear it when you step outside your home or if you’re sick and in contact with others. If you care for someone who is ill, you should also wear a mask. Instructions for making a mask follows below.

How to use a cloth mask safely

  • Only wear a mask that has been cleaned and ironed.

  • Wash your hands before putting on the mask, and after removing it.

  • Do not touch the cloth part.

  • Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth well and that it fits your face snugly. 

  • Do not fiddle with your mask while wearing it.

  • Do not touch your face.

  • When removing it, be careful and fold the mask inside out and hold it by the strings. Place it in the wash. Wash your hands thoroughly.

  • After use, wash your mask with warm, soapy water. Iron it once dried. (Throw away disposable masks.)

Following the above guidelines will minimise the chance of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus

How to make a cloth face mask to help protect against COVID-19 There are many tutorials available on Youtube, but the WCG suggests these guidelines for a good cloth mask: 

  • Has at least three layers: outer two layers are made from thick weave cotton like denim, calico, upholstery fabric or shweshwe; inner layer made from soft cotton. 

  • Avoid T-shirt material.

  • Use fabrics that can be washed in hot water and ironed. 

  • Is square with three pleats to fit well. 

  • Covers from above the nose to below the chin and up to the ears. 

  • Has straps that tie behind the head. 

Make two so that you can have a clean one ready use while the other one is being washed.