Health & Home

Ilana’s guide to wearing masks: part 2

April 11, 2020

Welcome to PART TWO of Ilana’s Guide to Wearing Masks: an utterly non-exhaustive list of tips for life right now.

[This post is adapted from something I posted on my personal Facebook page]

Attention: anyone using a fabric reusable mask with channels*, whether I’ve made it or someone else has.


*Channels meaning that the elastic is slipped through a little sleeve in the mask rather than sewn in.

I’m now at almost 250 masks completed. I started just churning them out, following instructions. Then, after I ran out of the thin 1/8″ elastic for the second time I started getting creative and was able to troubleshoot issues I was seeing.

So here’s the important part:

The problem: if you are using a fabric mask with elastic ear loops, you’re probably seeing some gapping at the side even if your elastic is tightened for a snug fit on the face. I’m finding this requires more adjustments, and of course, gunk can get in through significant gaps. And it makes sense, the way the elastic pulls to stay put causes a sort of U shape to form on the sides of the face.

The solution: replace your ear loops with a longer piece of elastic in one piece to create two bands that go around the head (I’ve found about 24″ sufficient for kids and 25-26″ sufficient for adults, but play with it to find your best fit). No elastic? How about ribbon, twill tape, strips of t-shirt material, flat shoe laces? Make yourself some ties, 36-40″ long.

How to do it: don’t worry about removing and replacing the elastic. While I do have a special tool for this, you don’t need one. Use a safety pin, paper clip, or hair pin to guide your material through the channel.

Added bonus: no pressure on the ears with this method!

How to wear: for elastic versions, put the mask on your face and bring both elastic parts over your head. The loop (top) goes somewhere from top to back of head based on comfort and best fit, and the knotted part (bottom) goes lower on the head or high back of neck. The tied version is a little easier to get on, as you put the loop on your head then ties the ends as comfortable. Either way, this does two things – it allows a more customized fit, and it cinches down the outer edges for tighter fit at the sides of the face.

The downside: getting the elastic type on is a little difficult at first; be careful and make sure hands are clean. When taking them off, if you’re wearing earrings, PLEASE do it carefully. And this may mess up your hair as compared to the ear loops. If that matters to you.

The notes: I’ve shown different types of elastic in the photos for reference. 1/8″ and 1/4″ woven elastic are fine, as is 3/8″ or 5/8″ fold over elastic, which is the soft, flat elastic used for things like baby headbands – I prefer the 3/8″ because it fits most channels better. I haven’t tested this, but I have a feeling anything flat rather than round (like a boot lace) will work; the round may just roll around. If you use fold over elastic, be sure to heat seal the cut ends (hold close to, but not in a flame, until you see the edges melt smooth). Fold over elastic is inexpensive and plenty of Etsy shops have it in stock; I’m not sure how well it will hold up to high heat hospital sterilization, but for personal use its great.

Keep washing your hands! And your glasses, phones, and jewelry! Wash your mask after every use! Put it on and remove it with clean hands!

Note: my model is my toddler. Don’t try to put masks on babies, and please remember children don’t need masks in car seats and it can be hazardous. As always, supervise kids when they’re wearing anything with loops/ties.

I’m including labeled images for clarity. If something still doesn’t make sense, please ask.

I hope this helps. Stay safe. You’re doing great.

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