How to use a Pipe Cleaner (or other wire) to Make Your Fabric Face Mask Fit Better



I have another great tip for you to help make your face masks more effective.

After I shared with you my quick method for sewing fabric face masks, many of you asked me how I was using pipe cleaners to make my face masks fit the face better.

Pipe Cleaner Tip-2.jpg

This is so important because if your face mask doesn’t form to the bridge of your nose and prevent air from escaping, it’s not doing its job of filtering out particles.

I made a video showing how I sew a channel for a pipe cleaner (or other material). It will play in the video player on this page. If it doesn’t, you can find it on my YouTube channel.


What I show you in the video is how to sew a 1/2’’ or 5/8’’ channel or casing at the top of your face mask, through which you can insert a pipe cleaner.

Pipe cleaners are fairly easy to find right now and they are the best thing that I have tried for this purpose, however I have received messages from readers who say they are using twist ties, floral wire, and even tin foil folded up.


After sewing the channel, all you have to do is insert the pipe cleaner. I am using regular 12’’ long pipe cleaners, folded in half to make them extra sturdy.


Have you tried this tip? What works for you? Please share with us in the comments.

You might like these other posts about making fabric face masks:

Stay safe and sew on!

Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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  1. Cat Gurinsky says:

    This is a fantastic idea. The old mask fits really well but this takes it up that extra notch of perfection. I will be trying this out once my pipe cleaners come this weekend from Amazon!

  2. Linda McDonald says:

    Decided not to use pipe cleaners since wire will begin rusting after washing. I have been using some other plastic-coated floral wire and bending the ends so they won’t poke through. I also sew it in partially before sewing the entire mask together so I don’t have to work it past the middle seam through the entire casing. Hope that’s not too confusing.

  3. Hi! I just want to say thanks for the Filti recommendation. I found that it’s perfect for masks because your glasses don’t fog 🤓 The only downside was a 2+ week waiting period to receive it.

  4. Linda Nelson says:

    I have used plant tie wire, and that works great. It is coated, and if I cut it with a wire cutter, there are no sharp edges.

  5. Barbara Trevouledes says:

    I’ve been sewing a channel in my face masks and inserting a thin piece of aluminum sheeting, which works great. I saw another great idea – the closure from a coffee bag. Sturdier than twist ties and FREE!

  6. That’s exactly what I have been doing with the Olsen masks I’ve been making. Do you happen to know if the pipe cleaner is washable? Or should they be removed before washing? I’ve been trying to find out from others but haven’t been getting any answers. Thank you!
    Kathleen – kakingsbury at verizon dot net

  7. Laurie Spengler says:

    that worked awesome!! my pipe cleaners were a bit wimpy so I twisted 2 together and folded them in half!

  8. Mary Olson says:

    I made all of my masks using a 12" pipe cleaner, but folded it in half then twisted it. Twisting gives it even more strength, plus it is easier to sew into the mask if the halves are intertwined together. The pipe cleaner really does give the mask a better fit & helps mold the mask snuggly around the nose area for added protection!

  9. Meredith Olmsted says:

    Hi! I have used your speed method mask pattern – thank you! One tip – after adding the pipe cleaner, I recommend stitching the pocket for the pipe cleaner closed at each end after inserting. I have experienced that the cleaner tends to escape when washing. Again, your pattern has been used for the whole family.

  10. Joanne K. says:

    Yes! I added the channel and a piece of pipe cleaner when I first made the mask! I like the idea of doubling it. I also curl the sharp ends back on themselves to prevent anything from poking out. This is my favorite mask to make and you were the first to post a decent tutorial. Thanks!

  11. If you use a pipe cleaner in your face mask – can it still be washed and if so, does the pipe cleaner get ruined?

  12. I have tried both pipe cleaners and wire similar to bread ties (plastic coated). My problem is the wires poke through. Any ideas on how to stop that? Thanks!

  13. I also use the 5/8" seam. It gives plenty of room to slide the pipe cleaner in.

  14. I’ve used the pipe cleaners to make the masks a better fit. When I washed it, I dried it in the dryer but it rusted a little. I had sewn the pipe cleaner in so I would have had to rip the seam to get it out. Have you had trouble with rust or have you just taken it out? Thanks. I love your newsletter, lots of great ideas.

  15. Hi, Caroline. I’ve played around with different ways of using pipe cleaners, twisty ties etc. The easiest way is making a tunnel like you showed. But I insert the pipe cleaner, pin it in place horizontally, and use my zipper foot so that I can make a narrow tunnel. I made some a month ago with the Olson pattern where I used a wider tunnel. The problem was that
    it made it harder to get a filter in the filter pocket. (Of coarse this is assuming you do not plan to remove the pipe cleaner to wash your mask, because when I get done with it it isn’t going anywhere. Some of the masks I made before using my zipper foot for the tunnel, (the sew and stuff model), came out of the wash with kinked wire. Guess it had to much play room and did the hokie pokie and turned itself around. None of the ones using my zipper foot method, (pin in place and stitch) had any wiggle room to get all "bent out of shape".
    Since then I have not had any issues with washing and drying masks with the nose pieces left in.
    With some of my original masks I made little casings for the nose pieces, but that was not very time effective. I was just trying out whatever came to mind, because early on a lot of the patterns didn’t even incorporate nose wires.
    There is no right or wrong way as long as you can get a good seal around your nose, chin and sides of your face. With some patterns I made darts on the sides and chin to fit my grown son’s face better. Happy stitching everyone. I keep coming up with funky ideas to make the masks more fun, like a print for one half and a solid for the other half of the face part. After all, our masks can use our creativity, make someone smile (but you have to check out the corner of their eyes to see if they are smiling), or laugh. They say laughter is good medicine, and you don’t even have to have a license to share it.
    Do the rest of you consider your masks as wardrobe accessories?

  16. Is it OK to hand sew this mask since I don’t have a sewing machine…? I imagine it will take much longerto make if hand sewing…

  17. Jeanetta Whelan says:

    I want to thank you for the great job you have done with all of your updates for the masks. I have followed you since the beginning, adding each modification to the masks for family that I made. I ordered the Filit material when I first saw it on your website and you are correct it does provide a great alternative to other filter materials. What is critically important to note is that Filit has a MERV rating of 16 which is excellent. Thank you for sharing in such a generous way. I look forward to your daily emails and compliment you on the detail of your videos and PDF instructions. You are the best!

  18. Dell Erwin says:

    Pipe cleaners rust. Use copper or aluminum wire such as an opened paper clip, copper wire, aluminum wire like picture hanging wire.

  19. Jennifer Patrick says:

    I came across you a few weeks ago when searching for masks to make for fellow coworkers and myself. I just want to thank you for all the free patterns that you offer. I’ve sewed my entire life but I’ve always had a pattern. Lol. Your personality is warm and sweet which is a big plus….just a beautiful person!! Now, you will always be my go to person for ideas.

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