Care, design of homemade face masks

Mayor Kawakami and Dr Berreman of the Kauai’i Department of Health have been powerful forces for keeping us safe. As of April 14th, face masks are required for most community activities. Important next questions for each of us are, what type of mask to wear and how to care for them? Emerging research is showing that certain materials and designs may be better than others.

Primary advice is to wear simple homemade face coverings if that is what you have – as even simple coverings will help protect the people near us, but if you are able to obtain the better homemade ones, they may provide more protection for you and for others.

Do not attempt to buy medical grade masks as there is a serious shortage and they must go to our frontline healthcare workers and first responders.

Luckily and typical for Kauai, people are stepping forward to help provide quality homemade masks for Kauai’s people. There are companies selling them at low cost and there are others making them to donate. One organization deserving special credit is a public Facebook group started by Kris Hunt and a small team. They are putting people who sew together with people who have material and are providing free masks for thousands of us on Kaua’i. You can access their site to sign up for a free mask or volunteer to make masks or donate supplies or just learn how to sew a mask at: massivemasksforkauai on Facebook or on the internet. You can also e-mail Kris at

Simple Guidelines for Homemade Masks

• Please remember, staying home is still the best defense. It is better than the best mask.

• The New York Times and other news sources have been reporting on the best material and designs for masks. The internet site also has detailed designs for simple masks. There is emerging evidence that masks made of multiple layers of tightly woven cotton material work better than single layers. Cotton t-shirts, pillowcases and regular quilting cotton are all recommended for these outer layers. The best cotton to use is heavy enough so that light does not come through it too easily.

• If these multiple layers of cotton (2-4 layers), have a space in between where you can put an insert that is even better. Good materials for the extra insert are layers of coffee filters or a piece of flannel or polypropylene non-woven fibers (used in non-shiny reusable fabric grocery bags). Vacuum cleaner bags have also been reported to be effective but they may have fibers in them, so better to only use them between layers of cloth and to avoid those made with fiberglass.

• Closely fitting masks are considered more effective.

• Care of these homemade masks includes washing frequently in hot, soapy water and drying on high heat. Be sure to wash your homemade mask before you wear it for the first time and remove the paper filters before washing again.

• Try not to touch your mask as that is bringing your hands to your face. If you need to adjust the mask and/or when you remove the mask, do it by holding the straps rather than the mask. Consider the mask contaminated when you remove it and wash your hands immediately after handling it.

• There is no doubt that our front line people are the heroes, from those working in the hospitals and clinics, to those providing essential services to the public.

• Unsung heroes in this worldwide effort to slow the spread of the virus are all of the people who can sew and are sewing masks for the public. One more person protected is one less person that may end up in an overwhelmed hospital or one less person giving another the virus.

Be well, be safe, and stay home. But if you must go out, wear a mask.

My Mask Protects You and Your Mask Protects Me


Lee A Evslin, MD is a Board Certified Pediatrician and Fellow of The American Academy of Pediatrics. He was a former healthcare administrator on Kauai and periodically writes a column for the Garden Island. This column represents a sharing of information. No content on this column should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.


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