Since the pandemic began and wearing masks have become a necessity to stay healthy, many people have created their own masks from a variety of on-hand materials instead of buying them at stores or online.
Coach Megan Bilko of Pittsburgh Elite Aquatics in Pennsylvania did just that, adding her own unique idea to others she had seen on the internet. Bilko designed a mask using a combination of bandanas and goggle straps, and the concept has become so popular that it has been shared many times throughout the swimming community.
Bilko took the surgeon general’s recommendations for creating a homemade mask and tweaked it based on what she had available. “I walked over to my bin of swimming materials and thought, ‘I can probably figure out how to use the goggle straps,’” she said.
Bilko combined several bandanas with the goggle straps she had accessible and discovered a simple way to make a makeshift mask. “I made a little video and I sent it to all the coaches on our team. They asked me to make a more formal one to share on the team website, and I also shared it on the Swim Coaches Idea Exchange Facebook page,” she said.
“I’ve actually seen lots of swim clubs share the video from my personal Facebook page and from the swim coaches page.
She continued, “I got a response back from several parents in mid-March before everyone began ordering masks online. Many of the parents were like, ‘We don’t know how to sew, so this is great!’
“Even now, I still use my goggle mask, and it works just fine. It’s definitely not something you would find available in any stores.”
The bandanas can be folded in a tri-fold and used with either the rubber or bungee cord goggle straps. After the bandana is folded in a rectangle shape, the tied goggle straps lay over the rectangle and then it is placed on the face.
“You don’t have to cut anything or create any holes, which makes it very easy to maneuver,” Bilko said.
In addition, the bandanas can be easily switched out and washed frequently to maintain good hygiene practices. The only downside, she said, is that the goggle straps sometimes mess up the back of girls’ hair since the straps go around the head instead of around the ears.
Bilko said she shared her idea to assist others who may need an easy way to create their own mask since personal protective equipment supplies have been hard to come by.
“I was hoping it would help somebody that either couldn’t find a mask in a store or didn’t have all the supplies to make a mask. And if they are part of the swimming community, then this might be one of their solutions."
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