There is no concrete evidence about the efficacy of homemade face masks. I initially removed all items but after the CDC did a backflip on its recommendations (despite there not being a body of research to back it up) so I have added them back.
Spreading false medical information is dangerous at the best of times, but in the time of a pandemic I believe we have a social duty to curb such myths. And so I want to suggest a highly informative podcast: Science VS. They prioritise fact over hype and are covering Covid-19 better than any mainstream media. No sensationalism, no politics, and explanations for laypeople. I highly, highly recommend you listen to their episode called Coronavirus: Unmasking the Facts and Ibuprofen Scares.
There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence (i.e. not scientific; without proof of efficacy) with regards to making and donating homemade face masks to hospitals. To date there have been no studies proving the safety of these masks. At best they may discourage people from touching their faces.
For now doctors, nurses, and front line medical staff are often being told to sanitise and reuse medically approved masks. This is not ideal and I am as furious as the rest of you that they haven’t been provided with the resources they need (and that they have known they would one day need for decades). There is evidence it is possible to kill viruses on masks, but the masks need to be able to keep the virus out to begin with. T-shirt material etc does not do that.
The World Health Organisation does not mention homemade masks, which is in line with the specialist in viral respiratory infection who, in the same Science VS episode mentioned earlier, was surprised (as were colleagues) that the CDC mentioned them at all.
The only clinical trial we have on cloth masks – which had around a thousand doctors and nurses – found that they didn’t work.
Should you wish to read the original 2015 study, you can do so here. The authors of the original study still do not condone the use of cloth masks as their research showed wearers of homemade masks had higher risks of infection. You can read their updated response here.
Prior to the change in recommendation from the CDC, they maintained the following information on their site, and it is listed as a last ditch effort.
HCP use of homemade masks:
In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.
Whether or not you want to wear homemade masks is your choice, but it would be irresponsible of me to promote them without first stating that only study to have looked at this concludes they should not be used.
Anyway, here is a short list of tutorials other individuals have worked to create. I have not tried any of them, but if you do I would love to know the results.
Surgical mask PDF pattern
This pattern is not free, but the $8 price tag includes support from a professional seamstress. For those of us who struggle with sewing skills, this may be a better option.