Frequently Asked Questions about Cloth Face Masks

Frequently Asked Questions About Cloth Face Masks via

Frequently Asked Questions About Cloth Face Masks via

Cloth face masks seem to be the hot topic right now.

In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, not only are medical face masks in short supply, but the CDC is now recommending that everyone wear cloth masks when away from home to help prevent the spread of the virus. The need is great and as creative, crafty people we have an opportunity to serve our communities in a measurable way.

But with so much information being thrown around and so many conflicting opinions, it can be a little confusing to try and understand what the deal is with these cloth face masks. So here’s some information I’ve collected on the most frequently asked questions I’ve heard about cloth masks.

Before we jump in, if you already know what you need to know about cloth masks and are just looking to find the best cloth face mask pattern for you, you should check out my Free Cloth Face Mask Pattern Guide. If the terms and jargon in there are unfamiliar, you might also want to peruse my article: How to Choose a Cloth Face Mask Pattern.

Meanwhile, I know that when I first heard about masks I had a lot of questions. Who needs to wear them? What are they for? Do they really work? I address these questions and more below.

Who needs masks?

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that everyone wear a cloth face covering when outside of their home. So many people have to go out every day either for work or for supplies and so there are many, many people who could benefit from your efforts!

Some of the people who might need cloth masks in your community include:

  • Medical personnel who need to extend the life of their Personal Protective Equipment (i.e. masks made specifically for clinical use)

  • Friends and family

  • Neighbors

  • Gas station attendants

  • Grocery store employees

  • Postal workers

  • Teachers and volunteers delivering meals to students on food programs

  • Hardware store employees

  • Garden center employees

  • Employees of any business with delivery or curbside pickup

  • Care workers, emergency personnel, or anyone else who might need to extend the life of their PPEs with a cloth covering

Don’t forget, when you (or anyone else) wears a cloth mask, be sure to handle it safely and wash it between uses. The CDC has produced a one-page flyer that has simple but clear instructions on how to safely wear and take off a cloth face covering.

Do cloth masks work?

Just recently in the media there have been headlines saying that “cloth masks don’t work,” which is very confusing! Do they work or not? Do we need them or not?

A friend of mine is a physician’s assistant, so I asked him for his opinion. This is what he said:

There isn’t enough literature to be definitive, but in general it makes sense to me that the aerosolized particles would pass through the cloth mask, but the water droplets from breathing, sneezing and coughing would be captured on the inside surface of the mask, which would keep them from settling on surfaces around and being picked up by other people.

He also said that he himself does use cloth masks at work to cover his N95 mask and extend its life since those masks are in short supply.

This seems to match what I am seeing in articles on the web. While the articles have headlines designed to attract attention, if you read carefully they all seem to be saying the same thing, which is:

  • Cloth masks are not as effective as protective medical equipment

  • Protective medical equipment is in short supply and should be reserved for medical personnel

  • Until such time as protective medical equipment is abundantly available for all medical personnel and the public, a homemade cloth mask is worth using

Some additional points that are often raised:

  • Cloth masks are not a substitute for social distancing

  • Cloth masks could potentially help the wearer to refrain from touching their face

  • Cloth masks could potentially prevent the wearer from leaving as many potentially virus-containing water droplets behind to settle on surfaces

  • Cloth masks might be a good idea for those in high-contact situations such as store clerks or anyone who is going to interact with people

  • Cloth masks are ineffective if used incorrectly, for example, if the wearer touches the mask or doesn’t wash the mask between uses

For me, personally, I think it is clear that cloth masks are a good idea. No, they don’t 100% stop the spread of the virus, and no, they don’t guarantee you won’t get sick. But they could potentially contribute to containing the virus by preventing droplets from settling onto surfaces—one of the research projects I saw reported that anywhere from 65%-95% of particles were captured. That’s definitely more than nothing.

Masks also help remind you not to touch your face and/or prevent you from touching your face!

If nothing else it might help you remember to not touch your face! Check out this great video from Mark Rober showing how quickly things we touch get transferred to other surfaces, including your face:


If the video is not playing for you, you can click over and watch it directly on YouTube.

Some more articles on the topic:

CDC: Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings

Mayo Clinic: How much protection do face masks offer?

New Scientist: Do face masks work against coronavirus and should you wear one?

Live Science: Can homemade masks protect you from COVID-19?

USA Today: Your coronavirus questions, answered

So is it worth it to make, distribute, donate and wear cloth face masks? I say yes. Wholeheartedly.

What’s the best type of mask to use?

I can’t speak about effectiveness from a scientific or medical perspective, but I cansay that I think that the best mask is the one you will wear. So if you are making a mask, I think it is best to choose one that you are comfortable with and enjoy wearing.

And remember, cloth masks are not a substitute for social distancing and MUST be handled with care after use and washed between uses. It’s also best not to keep wearing a mask after it has become damp! Switch to a dry one.

Here’s the CDC’s advice on how to safely wear and take off a cloth face covering.

What materials work best for cloth face masks?

Again, I’m not a doctor or a scientist, but from what I have read on the internet, the key is to have high-thread-count fabric such as what you might find in a premium quilt fabric or high-thread-count sheets or pillowcases. But a poor mask is better than none at all. Bandana fabric isn’t particularly high thread count, but if a bandana is all you have, then you should use that. The CDC website has a tutorial on

If you’d like to read more about fabric and what works, I’ve found a few articles that address that:

Frequently Asked Questions About Cloth Face Masks via

That’s It!

If you have more questions about cloth masks, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to add them to this list!

Meanwhile, check out some of the other face mask posts I’ve written:

If you have a particular mask you enjoy or a great piece of information you’ve discovered, go ahead and leave it in the comments below.

Love, Angela


Many thanks to the generosity of photographers whose work is shared for free onUnsplash:Vera Davidova,Analia Baggiano andAndre Ravazzi.


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