Cheap & cheerful face mask

see copyright notice. Page created 5-Aug-2020 updated 18-Jan-2023. Use the button groups above to navigate quickly around the site.

[Composite of mask photos]

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I absolutely hated wearing a muzzle (aka "face covering"), especially in hot weather. When they became compulsory in shops, I actually felt more vulnerable to infection, as I could no longer go shopping without my hands coming anywhere near my face.

I did buy some proper masks, to use when I couldn't avoid being close to other people indoors. But for situations such as when I was the only passenger on a bus, or a customer in an almost empty shop, I devised this design based on an unbleached coffee filter. It's obviously nowhere near as effective as the real McCoy, but unlike some it's comfortable to wear, easy to don and doff with its single, velcro-fastened neck band, and the colour is unobtrusive. Most of the components are reusable, and the "disposable" part cost me zilch, thanks to a box of 4-cup coffee filters which had sat in a cupboard, unopened, ever since I bought a coffee machine! Bus drivers, shopkeepers and fellow citizens generally accepted it without comment - and even occasionally with a smile (or at least a slight wrinkling of the upper cheeks, accompanied by a muffled sound which I took to be a chuckle).

Cutting and folding nose pad

The mask itself is cut from a filter cone for a good fit, with the sides just a tad shorter than the original cone depth. Small pieces of parcel tape are folded round for reinforcement where the strap holes are punched, and at the top of the crimped seam to prevent it pulling apart. The straps are cut from a large rubber band (which you can pick up for free in streets frequented by postpersons - wash it well, of course). At first I tried knotting them onto the filter cone but, like shoelaces, they inevitably untied themselves. So now they're held in place by spiral-twisted wire ties, as supplied with food bags (and which I usually don't use, so they too are effectively free). The fastening is made from two rectangles of heavy-duty self-adhesive Velcro - I bought some to repair the fastening of an umbrella, so... you get the picture. Black PVC tape is stuck on in place of the peelable backing, with holes punched for the band, which is folded over and secured with more PVC tape. When the filter cone needs replacing, the wire ties can be unwound and re-used (a few times) along with the strap assembly.

N.B. For obvious reasons, this mask should be worn only in dry conditions!

Footnote: Comfort and durability can be improved by incorporating a "nose pad". When cutting the mask from the cone, make two cuts up to the curved top edge, to form a pair of roughly rectangular flaps (leftmost mask in photo). Fold each of these down over the outside of the cone, then fold it again, so that the original, uncut edge lines up with the crimped seam (centre mask). Finally, reverse the first folds of the flaps so that they tuck neatly into the inside corner, with the uncut edges butted up to the seam. After sticking on the reinforcing tape, the appearance is improved by rounding off the pointed corner, as shown (rightmost mask).

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