Given the shortage of masks used to protect against the coronavirus outbreak, people have resorted to making their own face protection from napkins, bandanas, old bras — you name it. Costume designer Amy Roth (“Madame Secretary”) is offering tips on how to put together masks to ensure those on the frontline — and at home — have the protection they need.

“When making your own mask I would keep a few key things in mind,” Roth said. “Most importantly: not all fabrics are created equal.”

Some textiles, she explains, offer significantly better protection against airborne particles.

“I would encourage the use of multiple layers of cotton fabric,” she said. ‘Tea towels are best, a bit better than pillowcases or t-shirts. Layering has been proven to capture at least twice as many particles.”

However, it is important to keep masks breathable, Roth advises.

“Ideally, you’re using two to four layers of fabric on the mask, or even adding an ‘insert space’ in the mask, so you can slide in a piece of more substantial as filtration material,” she said.

Since most of the general public doesn’t have proper filters — meaning HVAC or HEPA — Roth suggests an alternative.

“Vacuum cleaner bags or polypropylene non-woven fibers,” she said. “Those used in non-shiny reusable fabric grocery or tote bags have been documented to work well. Even a coffee filter can be helpful — whatever you use, just be sure the filtration material is not touching your face directly. some shed small fibers that you don’t want to inhale.”

As a designer, Roth said making masks has been inspiring, especially since costume designers, sewers and seamstresses have come together to get involved.

“Lots of people are making their own masks, and making clothing and protective equipment to donate to health care workers in need,” she said. “Our industry is so accustomed thinking creatively and working quickly – so we’re very well equipped to move fast in a crisis.”

Roth recommends the CDC site for tips on how to make a mask using the above pointers and utilizing items you have around the house.