How to make your own coronavirus Ragmask

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Make your own protective mask with Ragmask's amazing guide.
Make your own protective mask with Ragmask's amazing guide.
Photo: Ragmask

Do you need a coronavirus mask? The World Health Organization still says no, unless you are caring for someone with COVID-19 or carrying the virus that causes it yourself. But perhaps The WHO isn’t as impartial as we’d like to think. As health experts’ opinions on the subject evolve, a DIY homemade mask looks increasingly enticing.

Perhaps wearing a mask when you take the subway or visit a supermarket is a good idea after all. Whatever, none of this changes the fact that you cannot buy a mask anywhere. But you can make your own. Check out the Ragmask, a homemade mask deign from Loren Brichter. Yes, that Loren Brichter — the former Apple employee who went on to develop Tweetie and was dubbed the “high priest of app design” by The Wall Street Journal.

‘Wear a mask … you filthy animals’

If you’re going to wear a mask, then almost anything should be better than nothing — at least as long as you don’t actually get sneezed on, then touch the mask as you’re removing it, and then touch your face. There’s also the risk of believing that you’re 100% protected with a bandanna over your face as you gulp in deep drafts of air on a crowded subway car.

But if you’re going to do something, do it properly. That’s where Ragmask comes in. It’s a blueprint for making your own protective face mask, using ingredients you probably already have laying around the house. If not, you can easily order them. The Ragmask instructions (.pdf) don’t include actual material recommendations, because that would just cause a run on those particular products on Amazon. Instead, it offers suggestions as to the best materials to employ.

Here’s the blurb:

Design improvements welcome! Optimizing for speed of construction / low skill necessary / material availability / “good enough” effectiveness.

Current design is square-cuts-only, requires no pinning or pressing, and can be made in only a few minutes per mask if done in batches.

How to sew your own Ragmask

It's easy to sew your own coronavirus mask.
It’s easy to sew your own mask.
Photo: Ragmask

A Ragmask can be made of anything. That’s kind of the point. Look in the attic or basement. Raid your wardrobe, or dig out those spare bedsheets. Then, just take the Ragmask pattern, cut out your pieces, and sew it all together. If you can already sew, then great. You may want to teach another family member while you do it.

The sewing can be done by hand, or — preferably, in this case — with a sewing machine.

Filters and wire

Adding wire to your homemade coronavirus mask.
Adding wire.
Photo: Ragmask

Then you need filters and wire. The filters do the filtering, and you can repurpose any filters you have around the house. The Ragmask site suggests air-conditioning filters, for instance. Vacuum cleaner filters may also do the trick. Just make sure you don’t use anything dangerous, like fiberglass. And if you can’t find any filter material, the mask still might work better than nothing to help stop the coronavirus’s spread.

Finally, the wire is there to help the mask conform to the top of your nose. Without it, you’ll have gaps. If you have thick (but not too thick) copper wire in the shed, garage or workshop, that will work perfectly. If not, there are suggestions for materials:

  • Wire clothes hangers
  • Garden wire
  • Paper clips (you might need more than one to hold shape)
  • Anything that bends but can hold a shape

Homemade masks: Better than nothing?

This is a great DIY project. And, while the world waits additional guidance on wearing masks (and a proper supply of N95 masks), it’s possible that wearing a Ragmask is better than nothing. However, Ragmask warns not to let a mask lull you into dangerous behavior.

“Remember: please stay at home,” Ragmask wrote on Twitter. “Don’t let any mask give you a false sense of security (even real N95s (which you should donate asap plz thx)). If you have to go out for any reason, masks, if used right, can help keep you and the people around you safe.”

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing more people out there with interesting-looking homemade masks to counter COVID-19. Who wants white, or surgical blue, when they could wear a homemade coronavirus mask crafted from old Star Wars bedsheets or paisley curtains? Yesterday I saw a woman outside wearing a mask with blue sequins. It was pretty cool.

For more tips, follow Ragmask on Twitter, and check out the Ragmask site.