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If you and your family have opted to use disposable masks during the pandemic, chances are you have gone through a bunch of them by now. Even cloth masks wear out over time. Instead of throwing them away or letting them pile up around the house, take a few minutes to work them into your Halloween costume.

First, sanitize your masks

Before you upcycle your masks, it’s important that you sanitize them properly to make sure they’re safe to wear—even if it’s not directly on your nose and mouth. If you’re using cloth masks, we have a thorough guide on how to clean them, but the easiest way is to simply throw them in the washing machine along with the rest of your laundry. 

Sanitizing disposable masks is trickier, as there’s no way to be 100 percent sure they’re germ-free. First of all, don’t pick up masks you find on the street. Your intentions to save the planet are surely commendable, but you don’t know what you’re dealing with a random mask someone tossed aside. Also, ew.

[Related: Will we ever be able to recycle all our plastic?]

Masks around your home, worn by people with whom you interact on a daily basis, are much safer. To sanitize them, hang them outside for a week to make sure any infectious particles (if there are any) are dead before you manipulate the covering again. You can also spray your masks with disinfectant, making sure you don’t miss any folds or crevices. They won’t be safe to wear again over your nose and mouth, but a thorough spraying will be enough for you to use them as part of your Halloween costume. 

Also, don’t forget to leave at least one fresh mask untouched so you can protect yourself and other trick-or-treaters during this most spooky holiday.

How to make flowers by upcycling disposable facemasks

Person wearing flower crown made out of masks
Add some cool makeup and you’re ready to rock a catrina-inspired Día de los Muertos look. Sandra Gutierrez G.

Let’s start with disposable masks, as they’re a growing environmental risk. You can turn each of these disposable polypropylene face coverings into some easy-to-make roses. Depending on how many masks you can gather, you can bundle them into a bouquet for a Bride of Frankenstein outfit, or hot glue them onto some fabric to construct the whole May Queen from Midsommar outfit.  

We opted to stick our mask-made roses onto a headband to make a Día de Los Muertos flower crown (which you can use again when Coachella comes back).

Stats

  • Time: about 1 minute per flower
  • Cost: starting at $15 for a flower crown
  • Difficulty: easy

Materials

Tools

  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • (Optional) brushes

Instructions

1. Rip out the elastic loops. Do this gently. Depending on the mask, you could tear the entire material. Set the elastics aside. 

2. Gently open up the folds. Disposable masks are made of plastic and manufacturers use heat to fuse the material together to make folds. You can smooth everything out by gently separating the material with your fingers, so you end up with a flat rectangular shape. 

  • Pro tip: If the folds in your masks are really stuck together and you end up ripping the entire mask while trying to pull them apart, you can skip this step and just cut along the sides of the mask.

3. Start shaping your rose from the wired noseband. Make an S shape with the band and then fold one of the sides of the mask on top of the other.  Start rolling the top side of the mask onto itself until there’s no material left. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. You can shape your flowers however you want. 

hands folding face covering
That S shape is the base of your rose. Sandra Gutierrez G.
  • Pro tip: Use the remaining wire to shape the center petals of your flower. Don’t be afraid to fold the material in different directions to make it unique. 

4. Roll the bottom half of the mask around the flower. Pick one of the bottom corners of the mask and use it as a starting point to roll it around the first half of the rose. Use your fingers to make tiny folds on the edge to achieve a more realistic look. 

hands making flower with mask
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Just shape it like a rose and you’re golden. Sandra Gutierrez G.

5. Finish your rose. Once you’re satisfied with the shape of your bloom, wrap one of the elastic loops around your flower and tie a knot to hold it in place. One simple knot will do the trick. 

6. (Optional) Cut the remaining elastic. 

7. Paint your flowers with acrylic or spray paint. Disposable masks are made of plastic, so most water-based paints won’t hold as well as acrylic or spray will. Here, you can be as creative as you want to be. Wait until they’re completely dry before you go on to the next step.

  • Pro tip: If you didn’t cut the elastics in the previous step, you can paint them green and even wrap plant twist ties around each one to make them look like vines. 

8. Hot glue them onto the headband. If you’re using a headband made from stretchy fabric, hot glue may seep through to the other side. To avoid burning your fingers, place the headband flat on your work surface before sticking your flowers to it. Put some glue on the “neck” of your flower, wait a second until the glue settles, and then press the rose against the surface of your headband.

  • Warning: Do all your gluing in a safe, well-ventilated space. Disposable masks are commonly made of a plastic fabric called polypropylene, and hot glue can melt this material easily. The fumes from molten plastic can be dangerous, you won’t want to inhale them.

9. Repeat and enjoy! The folded masks will give your crown volume, so a few roses will go a long way. You can glue as many flowers onto your headband as you want, but the more you have, the heavier your crown will be—this might not be very comfortable if you’re trying to pull a Halloween all-nighter. 

Turn old cloth masks into kneepads

A man wearing shorts, sneakers, and cloth masks as kneepads.
Yeah, yeah, we challenge you to take a good photo of your own knees. John Kennedy

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of flowers made out of masks, take a breather and consider the simplest project on this list: knee pads. Whether you or your child wants to be a skater, a superhero, a ninja turtle, or any character that incorporates protective knee gear into their outfit, masks are an easy solution.

Stats

  • Time: less than 1 minute
  • Cost: free
  • Difficulty: easy

Materials

  • Face masks

Tools

  • Your hands

Instructions

1. Tie a mask around one knee. Put the mask part on the front of the knee and tie the straps behind. If the mask has a wire nose piece, put it at the top of the knee—it’ll be more comfortable there. Repeat this step for as many knees as necessary.

How to make an eye patch out of a face mask

A man with long hair wearing a face mask as an eye patch.
Be a steampunk pirate, or the lead vocalist from Dead or Alive. The options are endless. John Kennedy

Going with the theme of covering body parts with old masks, you can turn one or two into an eye patch. A pirate costume is the classic choice here, but you can let your imagination run wild and strap one on to complete an ensemble for anything from a steampunk vigilante to one of pop culture’s countless heroes and villains.

If you have a mask with a strap that goes all the way around your head, you can do this with one (skip straight to Step 3), but if you have a standard ear-loop mask, you’ll probably need to cut the straps off a second mask to get the requisite tie length.

Stats

  • Time: about 5 minutes
  • Cost: free
  • Difficulty: easy

Materials

  • 1 or 2 face masks

Tools

  • Scissors

Instructions

1. Cut the straps off of one mask. Using scissors, snip right where the straps connect to the covering.

2. Tie the loose straps to the other mask. Tie one end of a cut strap to one existing ear loop on the match you’ll use as a patch, then tie the other end to the other ear loop. Your goal here is to create a full loop so the eye patch can wrap around your head. Use as many straps as you need to make it work.

3. Put the eye patch on. Cover one eye with the mask and fit the strap snugly around your head. Adjust as necessary. Now you’re ready to intimidate, persuade, or move quickly between light and dark areas.

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