How to Sew a DIY Medical Hood

We were recently contacted by a Sailrite customer who created his own design for DIY medical hoods that are used in conjunction with PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) machines to keep medical workers safe when treating a COVID-19 patient. George Warner was generous enough to take time out of sewing hoods to answer our questions about his hood design, share his instructions and drawings, explain his motivation to help, and how he’s hoping other DIYers will join in the fight against COVID-19.

tyvek hood
One of George’s early hood designs made from Tyvek material.

Q. What was your reasoning or motivation behind wanting to design these medical hoods?

A. Our daughter is a third-year resident at one of the larger Boston, Massachusetts, hospitals in internal medicine. Her friends, who are our friends, are Emergency Room doctors, pediatricians and anesthesiologists. 

They will be intubating people for ventilators and are very at risk during some of these procedures. We are trying to produce hoods to fit positive pressure respirators known as PAPR units. PAPRs are a type of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) used by medical personnel to safeguard workers against breathing contaminated air. The low pressure, positive pressure keeps contaminated air from getting into the hood and potentially infecting the medical worker. These hoods have plenty of room in them. For added protection, you can wear an N-95 Mask inside of the hood and it is not going to get dirty.  They just came out with safe ways to re-sterilize these masks.

Q. Do you have a background in design work? Are you already familiar with these PAPR units?

A. I’m an architect and I have worked on building houses, boats and kiteboards. I have had two of these PAPR units for building and construction purposes for 20 years. Instead of breathing dust, you’re breathing clean filtered air, even when sanding or grinding metal with carborundum (silicon carbide) discs that produce very fine dust.

A few companies make these PAPR units, but there is no reason to expect that production will be ramped up in time to meet the impending surge. In the United States, we have the advantage and luxury of a small head start on the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the medical outlets and industrial outlets will be scoured and empty in short order. The units have HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters.

Q. What is your goal in making these DIY hoods for PAPR units?

A. To get these PAPR hoods in the hands of frontline medical workers who are at risk of contracting the coronavirus when treating COVID-19 patients. I am hoping that by sharing my design and story, other DIYers will help out and start sewing these hoods to donate to local hospitals in need.

For anyone interested in sewing these hoods, please be aware that they are not up to medical protocols, neither are they CDC approved as PPE. However, in a very short amount of time, no emergency room or ICU in the United States will be able to fully meet the PPE standards of a normal day. When that happens, medical professionals will get sick as they have in China, Italy and Spain. There are thousands of sick doctors in Europe right now. They can’t treat anybody. They are the ones needing treatment. My goal is to make these hoods in order to keep medical workers healthy so they can continue to treat the sick without getting sick themselves.

Q. What materials are required to make these medical hoods?

A. I have been using a medium duty white tarp that is easy to clean and not so difficult to sew. We have experimented with Tyvek® polyethylene dumpster bags and with Tyvek house wrap. The commercially made hoods made by 3M use a fabric called tychem, that is very similar to the Tyvek paper that is used for post office envelopes. My latest prototype using Tyvek house wrap worked well and sews easily.

I’ve also experimented with Stamoid™ Light and clear vinyl window material from Sailrite. The window material from Sailrite is excellent. It is strong and cleanable and still flexible enough to fold inside out in the sewing process. The 30-gauge vinyl is great if you have a Sailrite sewing machine that can easily handle it, which I do. A 20- or 12-gauge clear window vinyl might be better for home sewing machines. I’ve used an old windsurfer window and it worked great. Others are using clear file folders.

The Stamoid Light fabric is really great in many regards but a little stiff and difficult to maneuver in the tight turns. It is strong and will be easy to clean. Again, my Sailrite sewing machine was able to handle this vinyl material, but I’m not sure how a home sewing machine would do. Hoods can also be made from Dacron® sailcloth, which is easier to sew.

Q. Are you making your medical hood design available to the public for anyone who wants to make and donate them to hospitals? If so, where can people find your instructions and design illustrations?

A. We created a hood tutorial on the website. If anyone needs additional help, they can contact me through the website. The sewing is an intermediate skill level I would say. I would say that most Sailrite sewers should be able to do this. There will be a short video of the most difficult section. You can test this on a piece of scrap material and see how you do. You’ll get it quickly enough!

 Note: Neither Sailrite nor George Warner makes any claim that this medical hood design will protect the medical worker from contracting the coronavirus. Positive airflow is a safe procedure, but there are many elements that only the user can control. We are not an authorized medical or health safety authority. Use at your own risk.

george wearing hood

If you would like to help sew medical hoods for your local hospitals, please use the link above to George’s written instructions and drawings. Please check with your local hospitals that they are accepting DIY medical hoods and other protective gear beforehand. Sailrite would like to say a big thank you to all DIYers out there who are donating their time, talent and sewing supplies to help provide their communities and medical facilities with face masks, shields and other protective equipment. Together we can save lives and help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. 


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10 thoughts on “How to Sew a DIY Medical Hood”

  1. He could also modify these and add P100 cartridge with PVC pipe. Using 3/4″ PVC pipe and screw adapter to attach P100 cartridge to hood . The Mask manufacturers like north have parts and accessories for their masks both their full face and half face masks. I work int eh environmental abatement field and we are doing a lot of Covid 19 related things like negative pressure rooms for facilities and etc.

    1. This designed is for use with a PAPR system that means positive pressure. If you are suggesting adding a cartridge only that does not have a positive pressure system attached the unit would be totally different and most likely not recommended. the positive pressure covers a multitude of sins when it comes to the seams and stitching. Two different animals.

  2. Great innovation, George! Thanks for looking out for the medical community on the front lines. May God bless you for using your time and talents in this way.

  3. Fantastic ..what a terrific job…I have been making masks for friends and family members….all are grateful and certainly your accomplishment to help to save so many. God Bless and stay safe… is good to know we still have some great minds here.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I will contact our local hospital to see if they are interested in any donations of these type of hoods.

    I’ve been thinking about making something similar for personal use over a N95 mask, but without the positive airflow. I was thinking of it as a way to protect the eyes and reduce the chance of the N95 mask, hair, and face being contaminated.

    I have quite a bit of left over Sunbrella Marine cloth and was wondering if that would work for the hood material. I know it would be heavier and hotter than the Tyvek. But I thought the waterproofing would help create a barrier for the smaller particles. I could add a Heppa filter for airflow.

    What do you think of the Sunbrella fabric as a barrier material?

    1. Hi Marybeth,

      To prolong the longevity of your face mask, we recommend sewing a face shield. Sailrite has a face shield blog and video tutorial here:

      The medical hood design George developed is only intended for use in hospitals by medical staff when they are treating a COVID-19 patient. these hoods require an air supply unit that blows air into the hood. These hoods should not be used by the general public. As far as Sunbrella Marine Fabric for constructing a hood to donate to a hospital, Sunbrella marine is very heavy (9 oz/sq yd) so we’d recommend finding a lighter weight fabric. The doctors have to wear these hoods for extended periods of time so the weight of the fabric could become an issue.

  5. Excellent article with a serious caveat! Do not wear this hood for personal protection without the accompanying positive air supply or you could suffocate. Not enough air enters the back of the hood to sustain adequate breathing without the additional positive air supply. This is part of a more complete system for medical personnel and not for stand-alone personal protection.

    1. Hi, This is George. Thank you for all of the comments. To be clear… This hood does require an air source. Either a PAPR, powered air purifying respirator, or supplied air. Air pumped from a remote compressor where you know the air is clean and not contaminated. These are not certified in anyway. They do work but wearing an n-95 underneath is fine and comfortable. Depending on the material it can be washed and used multiple times. I make no claims on how to do this.
      Thank you!

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