How to Make a DIY N95 Mask

N95 masks are often referred to as the “gold standard” for face masks and are relied on by healthcare workers for protection. This unfortunately results in occasional shortages and higher prices for N95 masks. That raises the question: Can you make a DIY N95 mask?

As a pioneer in the DIY air purifier space, we at Smart Air are big fans of DIY. So we were quite impressed when we heard of a recent study that made a simple DIY N95 mask with just a surgical mask and two rubber bands!

Study: Surgical Mask + 2 Rubber Bands = DIY N95

One of the advantages of an N95 mask over a surgical mask is its tight seal that improves its effectiveness. With this in mind, a study tried to improve the effectiveness of a surgical mask by improving its seal.

To improve the surgical mask seal, the study created a simple DIY N95 mask with two 8-inch rubber bands and a surgical mask.

DIY N95
The study’s modified surgical mask

How did the modified surgical mask perform?

The modified mask scored well above the OSHA fit factor threshold of 100 for N95 masks. The average score of 151 was nearly 40-times higher than the fit factor of an unmodified surgical mask (score of 3.8). In other words, the modified surgical mask allowed 40-times fewer pollutants inside the mask compared to the unmodified surgical mask.

Although the DIY N95 masks did pass the N95 standard, the real N95 masks tested in the study outperformed the DIY modified surgical mask with an average fit factor score of 199.

Comfort

According to the study, 71% of survey responders rated the DIY N95 surgical mask as or more comfortable than an unmodified surgical mask. 

How to Make a DIY N95

The study provides step-by-step directions to create the impressively effective DIY N95 used in the study. Supplies needed: one surgical mask and two 8-inch rubber bands.

How to make a DIY N95 mask
Photos provided directly by the study

Step 1: Wear a surgical mask adjusted to fit along the bridge of the nose. Apply one 8” rubber band along the crown of the head and place the front of the rubber band under the nose. 

Step 2: Take another 8” rubber band and apply it perpendicularly under the first rubber band. Two loops should be formed above and below the first rubber band (see image C). 

Step 3: Shift the first rubber band so that it is over the bridge of the nose and fold the second rubber band in half on itself along the first rubber band on the horizontal axis. 

Step 4: Place the second rubber band along the cheeks and under the chin. Adjust both rubber bands as needed to achieve a full seal.

The final result should look like the example in E and F.

Interested in More DIY Mask Content?

Read our ultimate guide to DIY masks.

Bottom Line: Rubber bands can raise a surgical mask's effectiveness to the N95 standard


Using rubberbands to increase a surgical masks fit reduced the amount of pollution entering the mask by 40-times compared to an unmodified mask. This improvement was enough for the DIY mask to pass the N95 standard.

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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.