5 Household Items to Use as Face Mask Alternatives

Now that the CDC is recommending masks, they are hard to find online. These are your next best options.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially recommended that all Americans wear protective masks outside to help curtail the spread of the COVID-19 contagion. As a result, it's nearly impossible to purchase disposable medical masks online and receive them in a reasonable amount of time. Besides, those are best left to health care providers. "You don't want to take masks away from the health care providers who are in a real and present danger of getting infected," Anthony Fauci, MD, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said recently in an interview with CNN. But what are the best and most reliable options in lieu of surgical or disposable masks to prevent or lessen the spread of the coronavirus? There are lots of items you can use as mask alternatives.

A lot of decent face coverage options remain, and some of them, you either already own or can easily purchase online. Here is a brief and handy guide to non-traditional mask alternatives. And for more on how to make your own mask, here's How to Make a Face Mask to Fight the Spread of Coronavirus.


man wears bandana over nose and mouth

There is probably a decent chance that you have a bandana laying around the house. If not, then don't worry—online retailers seem to have a decent supply of bandanas available for sale.


woman with scarf pulled up around her face

Whether a wool or cotton blend, a simple scarf around your face can help impair the spread of germs from your mouth and nose, which is exactly what the CDC is aiming for by recommending face coverage for everyday pedestrians. In fact, a 2013 study from Cambridge University found that a scarf was 62 percent as effective as a surgical mask in terms of shielding you from bacteria, viruses, and other germs.


woman wearing Balaclava in cold weather to cover face

While most people may not own a balaclava—which is a full-face cover designed for extremely cold temperatures—they are still relatively easy to purchase online. As of publishing this article, many online retailers still had balaclavas available for sale with quick delivery.


man wearing gaiter over nose and mouth in the cold

Neck gaiters, mufflers, and/or buffs are circular items of clothing are really designed to keep one's neck warm. But they can also very easily be pulled up to cover one's mouth and nose. These are perfect solutions for masks, and much more comfortable than scarves and balaclavas. As of publishing, you could get a gaiter delivered in days.

Make your own.

hands preparing a blue mask on a sewing machine to protect from Covid-19 viral effect.

Many do-it-yourself approaches for homemade masks have now popped up online, but if you don't know your way around a sewing machine, then all hope isn't lost. You can cut up household material in the pattern of a surgical mask as the next best option. In that same 2013 study from Cambridge University, researchers tested household materials to find out which ones did the best job capturing bacteria and viruses. Vacuum cleaner bags came in first place and here are some other options as well: The 7 Best Materials for Making Your Own Face Mask, Backed by Science

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