If you are in an area where it is now mandatory to wear a face mask in public settings, you should know about best practices to use and clean a mask in order to provide the maximum amount of protection against the spread of viruses, particularly COVID-19. Even if you are not required to wear a mask, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that everyone wear a mask when out of their house – particularly at grocery stores, pharmacies and when doing other essential shopping – to slow the spread of the virus. Wearing a face mask helps people who may have the virus and do not know it (they are asymptomatic) from transmitting it to others.
Before heading outside with your homemade mask, here are some points that you should consider.
Your mask should:
- Be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen). If you have a bandana, fold in half once or more, to offer more protection to others. Consider adding a sheet of paper towel in-between the layers. The CDC offers a tutorial on how to make different types of face coverings, including two types of no-sew options.
- Be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping, and fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops.
- Allow you to breathe(!).
- Be comfortable, so you do not need to adjust or touch it while you are out.
- Be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty, which means after every outing.
- Maintain its shape after washing and drying.
Your mask should not:
- Be placed on children under the age of 2 years.
- Be placed on anyone unable to remove it without assistance, or anyone who has trouble breathing.
- Be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials.
- Be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues.
- Be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials.
- Be shared with others.
- Impair vision or interfere with tasks.
How to put on a non-medical mask or face covering:
1. Ensure the face covering is clean and dry.
2. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before touching the mask. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.
3. Ensure your hair is away from your face.
4. Place the face covering over your nose and mouth and secure it to your head or ears with its ties or elastics. Adjust it if needed, to ensure nose and mouth are fully covered. The mask should fit snugly to the cheeks and there should not be any gaps.
5. Wash your hands again with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before touching the mask. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.
While wearing a non-medical mask or face covering, it is important to avoid touching your face. If you do touch your mask or face, you should immediately wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.
How to remove a non-medical mask or face covering:
1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.
2. Remove the face covering by untying it or removing the loops from your ears. Avoid touching your face or the front of the mask when removing it. The mask can be placed in a plastic bag temporarily, if you are not at home. Make sure you close or seal the bag while storing it.
3. If you plan to reuse the face mask, wash it before wearing it again. It can be washed with hot, soapy water, or it can be machine-washed with your other laundry.
4. If throwing it out, place it into a garbage bin or plastic bag.
5. After removing the face covering, repeat Step 1.