All New Zealanders are now encouraged to wear masks when social distancing isn't possible, and Aucklanders have been told to wear them whenever out of the home.

If you haven't bought a mask, there's no need to panic because they can be made at home with supplies you already have.

In Victoria, where it's an offence to go outside without a face covering, the state government has issued guidelines on how to make a cloth face mask at home.

HOW TO MAKE A MASK

Its guidelines say you need three layers of fabric and two ear loops.

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The outer layer should be water-resistant fabric, which can be found in clothing, exercise gear or reusable shopping bags.

Beckie Wilson founder of Face It NZ a company manufacturing face masks in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Beckie Wilson founder of Face It NZ a company manufacturing face masks in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

The middle layer can be any fabric blend found in clothing.

The inner layer should be water-absorbing cotton.

For the ear loops you need elastic, string or cloth strips. Shoe laces will do the job, too.

Cut a 25cmx25cm square out of all three layers and lay them out stacked one on top of the other finishing with the cotton layer on top.

Fold the top and bottom edges in about 1cm on each side and stitch them together with a needle and thread.

Fold the remaining sides in a bit wider - about 1.5cm - and stitch with enough room to thread your ear loops through.

Pull the ear loops through your three layers of fabric. Photo / Supplied
Pull the ear loops through your three layers of fabric. Photo / Supplied

Knot the ear loops closed tightly.

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Put the mask on with the outer layer facing away from your face.

A SIMPLE MASK

A simple face covering can be made with a rectangular piece of fabric and two rubber bands.

With four folds of the fabric and two rubber bands you'll be able to achieve a face covering that doesn't have the same effectiveness of the three layered mask, but will still give you some coverage.

See the graphic above for more details.

HOW TO SAFELY USE A MASK

Last week the Ministry of Health publicised guidelines on the safest way to handle masks whether it's a single-use mask or home-made facial coverings.

They include how you put it on, what to do while wearing it, how to take it off and how to handle it safely after use to avoid the risk of infection.

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ALERTS2

But there are some key points to note including never sharing masks, and not putting them on young children or anyone who cannot take them off without help. People who have troubled breathing are also warned to not wear them.

The ministry says it is important the face mask is clean and dry and in perfect condition.

Before the mask is put on your face it's important to thoroughly wash your hands or use hand sanitiser.

With dry hands you should place the mask over your nose and mouth and secure with ties or loops.

You need to make sure the mask fits snugly and is moulded to your face and around your nose.

The mask should be comfortable, with no gaps around the mask and face, allowing you to breathe easily.

You then need to wash your hands again.

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The Ministry of Health says while wearing a mask it's important not to touch the front of it and avoid touching any part of your face.

Face masks should not be taken off during use, which includes being pulled up or pulled down below your chin.

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If you need to take off your mask to eat you should remove it safely, put in the rubbish or in the wash if it's a home-made facial covering. Then you should wash your hands.

Masks should also be replaced if they become damp, damaged or soiled.

The best way to take off a mask is to remove it from behind, untying ties or removing loops, and pull it away from your face, taking care not to touch the front of the mask.

Hands should be washed before you take it off and after you put it in the rubbish or washing machine.

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If you are washing home-made cloth masks the ministry suggests using detergent in a hot water wash of 60C.

The mask needs to be completely dry before you use it again.