If you need to make a face mask fast, follow this easy tutorial explaining how to fold a cloth mask using a simple bandana or handkerchief and two elastic hair ties (aka ponytail holders).
It’s easy to make a simple homemade face mask from a bandana and a couple of hair ties. In less than five minutes, I’ll teach you how to make a cloth face covering that you can wear when running errands, like shopping at the grocery store.
No hair ties at home? You can also use rubber bands, fabric strips, or even shoelaces to hold the mask in place.
No bandana? You can also use a square piece of t-shirt material. Read on more details.
Face Mask with a Bandana and Hair Ties
This folded bandana mask is one of the simplest ways to make a no-sew face mask. The friction of the folded layers of fabric holds the mask in place over your nose and mouth. And the hair tie ear loops will keep the mask from slipping down.
Pros and Cons
This bandana mask is certainly easy to make, but you will have to refold it after each wearing and washing.
Whichever style of mask you choose, make sure it:
- Covers from the bridge of your nose to the underside of your chin
- Fits snugly without large gaps
- Is made from 2 or more layers of tightly-woven fabric
- Can be washed and dried
Supplies and Materials
You only need a couple of household materials for this mask.
- cotton bandana, see other options below
- two elastic hair ties, see other options below
If you don’t have a bandana, you can use an 18″ square piece of other tightly woven fabric. You can easily cut an 18″ square from the bottom of an old t-shirt to use for this mask. Knit t-shirt material won’t fray as much as other woven fabrics.
If you don’t have hair ties, you can substitute any elastic loops that would be comfortable to wear behind your ears. You can tie a 7″ length of elastic cord into a loop with an overhand knot, and use that in place of the hair tie.
Step 1: First, lay the handkerchief, bandana, or piece of fabric out flat. Fold the top and bottom inward to meet in the middle. Then, fold the bandana in half again. There will be four layers of fabric.
Step 2: Next, you will use the two hair ties to create ear loops. Slip one hair tie over each of the short ends. Slide the hair ties a few inches toward the middle of the folded bandana.
Step 3: Then, fold each of the short ends of the bandana in to meet in the middle. You want the ends to overlap slightly, so you can tuck one of the ends into the folds of the other end. This will help keep the ends secure.
Step 4: Wear the mask with the folded ends against your face, and the smooth side out. This will help keep the mask from unfolding as you wear it.
If the mask feels too tight around your ears, you can adjust the position of the hair ties to make it wider.
Step 5: Remember to wash the bandana after each use, or if it becomes moist during use.
Variation: Using Rubber Bands Instead of Hair Ties
If you don’t have hair ties – or find them uncomfortable around your ears – then you can substitute simple rubber bands. Fold the bandana in the same way, but use rubber bands instead of hair elastics.
How to Use Fabric Ties Instead
If you prefer you can use strips of fabric instead of hair ties. In this case, the ties would not go around the ears, but rather tie around the back of the head.
Start by making the strips. To make the strips, I cut two 1″-wide, 18″-long strips of stretchy fabric from a t-shirt.
When it’s time to fold the mask, lay the strips down in the same place you would have put the hair ties, and fold the bandana the same way as before.
Wear the mask by tying the fabric strips behind your head and neck
How to Add a Filter
At one point, the CDC showed a version of this folded bandana mask with a coffee filter placed between the folds. Other people have suggested using a paper towel as a disposable filter.
Important to Remember
A DIY face mask is not a replacement for a surgical mask or N-95 respirator. Rather, these masks are meant to help protect other people when you are in public and/or cannot maintain social distancing guidelines.
Children under age 2 are not recommended to wear masks.
Be sure to follow the recommendations of the CDC about wearing masks and face coverings.
Sarah Stearns is an artist, maker, and blogger at sarahmaker.com
Her work has been featured in Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and more.
Sarah lives and works in North Carolina with her husband and young kids.