How to Donate Masks to Health Care Workers

Published April 6, 2020
Protective medical mask

You can find out how to donate face masks to health care workers during a pandemic or health crisis by contacting local agencies and organizations. There are a few things you should consider before rushing out the door with your donations.

Guidelines for Donating Face Masks to Health Care Workers

During a pandemic or health crisis, there will be strict legal mandates that may require you to stay-at-home. Does delivering face masks to health care workers qualify as a necessary reason to be out during such as government directive? In most states, such trips to deliver face masks to health care workers is considered a necessary cause, so you won't get into trouble for driving to the drop-off centers.

Type of Masks You Can Donate

Most hospitals and health care clinics will have very specific needs and will specify the type of masks they need. The typical need is N95, surgical and procedure masks. If the call is for masks, then you can assume that any type of health care mask will be appreciated and used.

Can You Donate Used N95 Masks?

If you have used N95 masks, check with the donation site to see if they are using the decontamination method that Duke University in Durham, NC, began in March 2020. This method uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide to kill germs. Not all regions have access to the necessary equipment. The decontamination process doesn't degrade the masks and allows the N95 masks to be reused for a limited number of times. The method was first introduced by other researchers in 2016, but wasn't widely received as necessary since N95 masks were in generous supply.

Companies Already Have Necessary Equipment

According to Monte Brown, M.D., vice president at Duke University Health System, the necessary equipment for N95 mask decontamination is already in place at several health systems and pharmaceutical companies. The equipment is being used for other purposes but can easily be used to facilitate the decontamination of N95 masks.

Some Hospitals and Clinics Accept Homemade Masks

Many hospitals and clinics that may be desperate for masks will put out the word that they are accepting homemade masks. Don't just start sewing a mask you think will work. The hospitals and clinics will provide you with a link to instructions that you can use to ensure you make what they need. This may only be written step-by-step instructions, while others will include diagrams and actual patterns you can print and cutout.

What You Need to Make Masks for Medical Workers

You will need 100% cotton fabric and 100% cotton thread and ½" wide elastic, or you may be asked to substitute with elastic hair ties if there's a shortage of elastic. The cotton is required for the high temperatures the hospital and clinics will use to sterilize the masks before they can be used. Non-cotton fabrics will melt under the extreme heat required.

Where to Donate Masks and Local Drop-Off Centers

Communities that have an urgent need for face masks for medical personnel put the call out through TV stations, websites, social media, government websites, Public Service Announcements (PSA) and various media outlets.

How to Donate Masks to Hospitals

Hospitals put out the word to the media and on social networks to let the community know what they need. The information about when and where to make mask donations is also included for individual communities and hospitals.

Groups and Organizations Launch Donation Efforts

In larger cities, you may find numerous organizations and groups staging donation centers in an effort to help provide health care workers with masks. Make sure you vet anyone you're unfamiliar with who requests donations, so you're giving to legit groups and not someone wishing to capitalize on a shortage. It could happen since many people hoard valuable products during crises. Essential businesses may be designated as a drop-off location if you aren't taking the masks directly to the hospital or clinic.

Can You Mail Masks?

Some areas may allow you to mail the masks to a designated address. However, some cities or communities that are overwhelmed with patients may not be able to wait for mail deliveries and will request that you drop off the masks at a specific location where the masks will be processed.

How to Mail Masks to Health Care Workers

Mask-match is a website clearing house for those who wish to donate masks and health care worker who need them to make a request.

  • You can fill out an online form.
  • Once you submit the completed form, you're emailed the healthcare worker information so you can mail your masks directly to them.
  • To ship your masks, you can use USPS Click-N-Ship. You can also order flat rate shipping boxes delivered to your door, print a label, and request your package pickup online.
delivery man delivering package

Can Someone Local Pick Up Your Masks?

It depends on your location whether anyone is available to pick up your masks. In some cities or towns, there are enough well people to come to your home to pick up the masks and deliver to the drop off location or designated hospital or clinic. This information will be included in the information your community provides about mask donations.

Ways You Can Donate Masks to Help Health Care Workers

If your local hospitals or clinic need mask for their health care workers, you can donate any appropriate masks you have. Be sure you understand the type of masks needed and where the collection centers are located.

How to Donate Masks to Health Care Workers