Introduction: HEPA Vacuum Bag Mask

About: Tara McManus is a circus performer, costume designer and event producer.

HEPA Vacuum bags are a better filter than bandanna but not as good as a true N95 mask. Unfortunately, there is a global shortage of N95 masks so these are your second best option. The material can be tricky to work with, it has a blue papery outer layer and a white non woven layer that is like a tissue, its important to keep them together as you cut and sew. Be careful turning the material inside out because it can tear. Its best to keep stitch sizes large for this reason as well.

Sanitation is VERY important as you make these, the hospitals that are accepting homemade masks are sanitizing them but safety precautions should always be done in duplicate so act as if they are not going to be sanitized. Clean your sewing and cutting area, your tools and sewing machine with bleach or lysol. Make sure your hands are washed and protected with nitrile or latex gloves, wear a mask while you work. If you can designate a room for this, keep the room sterile, if you take breaks to eat or take off your mask, use another room. Don't let other people or animals into the sewing room.

This material and sewing pattern are not the easiest out there, for a more simple design you can make with home fabrics, check out


Expendable materials:

HEPA Vacuum bags

String or Elastic Paperclips

Any Tape (electrical preferred)

Construction materials:

Pattern print out (pdf supplied in imgs)

Sewing machine




binder clips & magnets (alternative to pins which make holes)

PPE & Sanitizing materials:

Lysol wipes/spray bleach

hand sanitizer or soap


mask latex or nitrile gloves

Step 1: Step 1: Cut Open Bag

HEPA Vacuum bags have a blue paper like layer and a white non woven tissue like layer, be sure to keep these together as you work (these layers never get seperated) and don't crinkle the materials too much!

-The top and bottom of the bag are rolled and glued, unroll a layer and then cut straight through the seam. There is a seam down the center, cut straight through that too.

-There is also a cardboard guard around the vacuum hole, tear that cardboard off.

Step 2: Step 2: Place and Cut the Pattern

For the best air filtering results, don't use pins or cut any notches!

*Tip: If you have magnets, they are a great pin alternative, place one on top of the pattern and one below the layers of the bag material. Keep them about a half inch away from the edge so they don't stick to your scissors as you cut.

- Once you have spread out the bag, fold it so you have 4 layers of material that fit the pattern, use binder clips to keep the folds perfect.

Step 3: Step 3: Sew Center Seams

-Using binder clips, clip the center seams together making 2 mask shapes. Just like sewing a garment, clip the faces together, this is the blue side of the bag material.

*Tip: Remember that the straight line on the pattern is the chin, that's your point of reference when identifying the seam.

- Once they are sewn together, notch the curved part of the seam (careful not to cut the seam, thread snippers are nice and small for this task).

Step 4: Step 4: Sandwich Lining, Outer and Nose Insert

Now you have 2 sewn mask shapes, one will be the lining and one will be the face.

- Press both seams to the left (the photo shows the seam open but to the side is better for filtering) by hand (no iron needed) and turn one inside out. The mask shape with a white exterior is your lining, this is where you'll attach the nose bridge.

- The nose bridge is a paperclip opened up, shown in the photos. Place a strip of electrical or other tape across the nose part of the center seam about 1/2" down from the edge. Place the paperclip on top of the tape and put a second piece of tape over that so it's sandwiched in tape (to prevent edges poking out)

- Insert the white lining mask piece inside the blue exterior mask piece. The nose piece should be sandwiched between the layers and the mask will be blue inside and out.

Step 5: Step 5: Make Strings or Ear Elastics

If you have elastic, cut 2 pieces 9.5" long for a loop

If you have string, cut 4 pieces 14" long for ties

Tip for cutting many pieces of string or elastic: cut a rectangle of cardboard the length of the material, wrap the cardboard in the material and then cut the ends. Voila, you cut many pieces in the right length at the same time!

Step 6: Step 6: Clip in String or Elastic

-Take your paper pattern and mark the 4 spots for string/elastic insertion

- Insert string/elastic with a generous 1/2" inside, use binder clips to hold them in place

*Tip: be consistent with the placement of clips in the order you plan on feeding it through your machine so as you sew, the clip is always below the foot/needle.

Step 7: Step 7: Topstitch Outer Seam and Trim

Run the outer seam through your machine with 1/4" seam allowance and be careful around the nose guard! As you get to the string/elastic, remove the binder clip and use a finger to keep the material in pace. Chances are when the mask is all done, the 4 layers of blue and white material will have shifted and may not look perfect, if this matters to you, trim the layers (use caution around the strings!) to make it look even.

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