How to make PPE at home

How to make facemasks and even gloves and goggles at home has become a point of global interest. The COVID-19 pandemic has left communities all over the world short of needed materials. Flattening the curve is the priority (on both local and worldwide levels), and respecting security and hygiene measures is central to making that happen.

But, of course, staying at home makes it hard to combat the hoarding of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Furthermore, it’s crucial for local communities to give priority for PPE to hospitals and clinics. So, those who aren’t hoarding are trying to avoid buying precious supplies.

Healthcare workers might have the greatest need for PPE, but on a person-to-person basis it’s become increasingly important that everyone have access to face masks at a bare minimum. Gloves come next, and then even goggles and face shields, not to mention layers you can strip and wash when you get home like lab coats and even aprons.

Now more than ever, the supply chain needs optimal practices to maximize the production and distribution of resources to alleviate shortages and expand capacity. This will require time, however, and there are things you can do now to make sure PPE is used in your household.

Whether you’re already working in a STEM field or a science or medical student gearing up to finish school (once classes even resume), or if you’re someone outside of a STEM field who just wants a simple guide to make PPE as fast and easily as possible, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll teach you how to make your own masks, makeshift gloves and even aprons. (In the absence of a protective labcoat, an apron or “cover all” is an easy way to shed your most exposed layer of clothing when coming back from the store.)

For that matter, Dr. James production is maxed out to ensure that those who are ordering our Amazon lab coats or the designer lab coats on our website are able to get the supply they need. In the end, we may never know if we “over protected,” but we’ll definitely know if we under protected.


How to make a face mask

Note: These homemade face masks cannot replace medical masks. However, they’re good alternatives for day-to-day use. This particular mask we’re about to describe is the one recommended by the CDC in the U.S. because it’s simple to make and requires minimal materials.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A bandana, old T-shirt or a square cotton cloth that’s around 20" x 20"
  • A coffee filter
  • Multiple rubber bands or hair ties

And here’s how it’s constructed:

  • First, cut the bottom off of your folded coffee filter. You’ll keep the top part, which is what you’ll need for the mask filter later.
  • Lay your bandana or cloth flat in a rectangle, then fold it in half lengthwise
  • Fold the cut filter in the center of the folded cloth, then fold the top of the cloth over the filter and fold the bottom up. The cloth will now be “trifolded” over the filter.
  • Place the rubber bands or hair ties (still loose) around the folded bandana or shirt, about 6 inches apart. Just slip the ends of the folded cloth through each band.
  • Fold the parts of the cloth flapping outside the bands in toward the middle, then tuck.
  • Hook the rubber bands or hair ties around your ears, and you've made a face mask! You didn’t even have to sew.

Bear in mind that face masks need to be washed or changed regularly. Be sure to avoid touching it, too. And, of course, never lend or exchange it.


The fastest gloves to make

We won’t say these are comfortable gloves, but they’ll put one more barrier between you and public surfaces when you get groceries or other essential items.

You’re about to read about how to use a plastic, disposable bag like a mitten.

What you’ll need:

  • A plastic shopping bag

And here’s how to do it:

  1. Place your hand in the bag and wrap

This step is key, of course. You might have to try pulling the bag’s opening first one way around your wrist and then the other way, because you’ll want to make sure there’s enough length to loop one of the handles over your thumb.


  1. Catch the bag over your thumb

Naturally, covering your hand isn’t enough. You want this glove latched on. To do this, carefully loop the most accessible handle (depending on which direction you wrapped) over your thumb to secure the glove in place.

You’ll now have a plastic bag on your hand, and the second glove might be harder to attach. Once you do get set up with both gloves, you’ll have a disposable way to navigate public spaces (and toss the bags when you come back home). Bear in mind that these bags clearly weren’t made for this, and so they could break if you don’t handle them with care.


Make an apron

Are you waiting for your labcoat order? Or not sure when you can get one? To give yourself another easy-to-wash layer over your clothes when you buy essentials, you can make an apron.

The idea is that, when you return home, you can easily remove the apron and wash it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A piece of fabric roughly 34” x 29”. The bigger the measurements, the wider and longer your apron.
  • Your choice of thread. Hey, it doesn’t have to be matching.
  • A fabric ribbon about 24 inches long to tie around the neck.
  • A tape measure or ruler.
  • Your sewing machine.
  • Your iron.

And here’s how to construct it:

  1. Start heating your iron up.
  2. Lay your fabric wrong-side up on a flat surface. Here, you’ll want to ensure that the shorter length goes from side to side and the longer length is going from top to bottom.
  3. Fold the fabric into thirds across its width. Try to align the folds so that each third is roughly the same size.
  4. Press the iron lightly over the folds, because these creases will be your guidelines for the next several steps.
  5. Unfold the fabric, and your two creases should be easily visible.
  6. Take the top-left of the fabric and fold it down towards the closest crease, just like if you were making the wing of a paper airplane.
  7. Press that new diagonal crease with your iron, too, then unfold.
  8. Cut off that corner according to the crease.
  9. Then repeat the last three steps with the top-right corner.
  10. Fold down the diagonal edge on the left side about ¼ of an inch and then press that with an iron, then repeat on the right side.
  11. Sew a stich along the two diagonal folds either with your sewing machine or by hand.
  12. Fold down the fabric between the two diagonal sides to create the casing for the ribbon that ties around the neck. If the ribbon is half an inch wide, for instance, your fold should be slightly bigger. Use your iron to press this fold and hold it in place as well.
  13. Stick across the bottom of the ribbon casing.
  14. Fold the following edges about ¼ of an inch:
    1. The bottom
    2. The left side of the fabric
    3. The right side of the fabric
  15. Use your sewing machine to sew along those three sides.
  16. Slide the 24-inch ribbon into the casing. This will be a little easier if you place a safety pin onto one end of the ribbon and push the pin through your casing “tunnel.”


After making your own face masks, gloves and casing aprons, you’ll have a little greater peace of mind when you go out. Of course, going out will still be limited to only essential activities for some time. This PPE will keep the chances down that you could infect someone else or even become infected, but good hygiene is still essential. In fact, all the additional measures are still paramount.

All this PPE can be rendered “moot,” too, if not used correctly. The most important thing to remember with the mask and gloves is to cover your entire nose and mouth or hands, respectively.

With social distancing, regular hand washing and as much time possible at home, hopefully in time this urgent need for PPE will be a thing of the past.