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Greenpeace Africa volunteer Chemitei Janet shows us how to make a cloth reusable face mask to protect ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic 

The Easiest Way to Make a Reusable Face Mask 

I’m an environmental activist, a crochet and upcycling designer, and a writer. My favourite pastimes are reading and cycling. It bothers me that of late, I am noticing more and more personal protective gear ending up in the environment. It baffles me when there is the option to use a reusable face mask instead of a disposable option. After all, over 125 medical experts across the world confirmed that reusables are safe when you follow proper hygiene practices.

Here in Kenya, we’re seeing people throwing these disposable face masks into the environment, and others see an opportunity to collect, wash and resell them. This, of course, is very dangerous because no one can be sure if those masks they are buying have been properly cleaned.  

However, here’s a practical solution that is not only reusable but simple and safe. Today, I’m going to show you how to make a reusable face mask out of cloth in three simple steps! 

Play your part in making the environment safe and cleaner for everyone.

Making a Reusable Face Mask

For the mask, you will need a square piece of fabric off-cut, preferably 0,5m x 0,5m. If you have a piece of cloth that is slightly bigger, that is perfectly fine too. It just means more layers for your protection. 

(Read Greenpeace Africa’s response to discarded personal protection equipment in Durban)

Traditional Africa print cloth like wax fabric is good for making masks because wax is a thicker fabric than most. So, not only is it stylish, but it is practical too!  You need a piece of thin elastic for hoops to secure the reusable face mask to your ears, and a safety pin. That’s right, you only need three things:

  • a piece of fabric (0,5m x 0,5m),
  • a piece of thin elastic, and
  • a safety pin. 

Step 1: First you are going to fold the square in half… and then in half again, just like in the images below. (That way you are creating multiple layers as per the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations on cloth face masks, or personal protective equipment)  

Step 2: Slide your fabric through the elastic hoops. To make hoops, simply cut your elastic in two and tie knots. Sometimes the hoops might be too big, but you can always adjust them. Your reusable face mask should sit snugly against your face, but should also be comfortable. 

Step 3: Fold the fabric inward at the sides like this, and tuck it in. Use the safety pin to secure the face mask so it doesn’t fall apart while you are wearing it. 

Voilà! You have a fashionable, reusable face mask! 

Remember: reusable face masks should be washed after EVERY usage. In fact, it is advisable to own two to three masks (or pieces of fabric) to alternate between on different days so that you can wash and air them out after use. 

Washing Your Reusable Face Mask

  • In order to maximise the effectiveness of your reusable face mask, it’s important to keep it clean. 
  • Cloth masks can be machine or hand-washed, and you should use a heavy-duty detergent.
  • It’s a good idea to have several masks that can be rotated out, so a clean one is always available. 
  • Do not forget to wash your hands  thoroughly once you are done washing your mask. 

For more information on reusables during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out this blog

Chemitei Janet is a Kenyan Greenpeace Africa volunteer and former Miss Environment Kenya Elgeyo Marakwet. Click here to view some of her other blogs.