In the coronavirus world, we’re currently living in, wearing a face mask is one of the few things people can do to protect themselves when they leave their homes. That being said, face masks are not helpful unless they are used the right way. In fact, says infection control expert Kelley M. Boston, “here’s the thing with all masks — if they’re worn incorrectly, they can be more dangerous than not having one.”
To help you get the most out of your face masks, we’ve rounded up some face mask dos and don’ts backed by leading coronavirus experts and listed them here.
In This Article:
Here are some scientifically-backed facemask-related tips you should incorporate into your daily routine.
Wear a mask with 2 layers
If you’re wearing a cloth face mask, it needs to have at least two layers of cloth, according to the CDC. A thicker mask almost certainly fits this bill, because it probably consists of a layer that touches your skin, a thin layer of material beyond that, and then a third layer on the outside.
Some face masks only have one layer of thin cloth, which means you’ll need to create another layer yourself. To do this, slip a coffee filter, HVAC filter, or another nonwoven but still breathable interface inside the mask.
Wear your mask snugly
Wear a face mask that sufficiently covers the side of your face. It’s also pretty annoying to feel the air on your eyes every time you exhale, so we’d recommend something that slings to the bridge of your nose, too.
A good trick to make sure you’re wearing your mask snugly is to blow a short burst of air out of your mouth while wearing the face mask, and use your hand to feel what sides of your mask the air is escaping from. Be careful not to touch your face while you do this. If the air only escapes from the bottom of the mask, you’re wearing it correctly and comfortably.
Having said all this, you mustn’t wear the face mask so snugly that it affects your ability to breathe normally.
Wash hands before and after use
Before you pick up your mask, wash your hands thoroughly — at least 20 seconds of scrubbing with soap is recommended. This will keep you from transferring any potentially viral particles from your hand to the mask when you are picking it up and putting it on.
This is important because wearing a dirty mask is perhaps the best way to catch coronavirus.
Also, wash your hands after you take the mask off. The mask’s job is to catch dirty particles during use, and the particles might get transferred back to your hands when you touch it.
Remove the mask from behind
To minimize the risk of touching your face when removing the mask, take it off via the loops around your ears, or the tie at the back of your head if you’re wearing that kind of mask.
Even when you are removing the face mask in this way, try to touch only the mask and not your skin or hair.
This may seem like overkill, but coronavirus particles can be transferred from hands to skin with even the lightest, briefest touch. And if they find their way to your face, they are very easy to breathe in.
Wash reusable masks
Cloth face masks are generally reusable and should be washed every 5-8 hours of use. You should also wash your reusable mask ASAP if you know or suspect you were around infected people or surfaces.
Masks made from other synthetic components are generally one-time use. They should be thrown out immediately after being taken off.
Like we said earlier, reinforcing your face mask with a nonwoven interface is a great way to make it even safer. If you use a coffee filter, it needs to be thrown out and replaced after each use. HVAC filters are suitable for 3-4 uses. And most nonwoven synthetics can be washed and reused again and again.
No matter what kind of mask you have, make sure that it retains its form after washing.
Here are a few things NOT to do with your face masks.
Reuse a one-time use mask
Wearing a one-time use mask more than once is dangerous. They are not well-built and wear thin after a relatively short period of time, and at that point, they are not much more effective than wearing no mask at all.
One-time use masks also pick up dirt particles easily and obviously cannot be washed, so they get dirty quickly. Wearing them past the first time can easily lead to infection.
Touch the mask while using it
Just because there are a few layers of thin fabric separating the outside of the mask from your face does not mean it is okay to touch it. In fact, touching the mask will only press the inner lining (which can accumulate dirty particles too) into your face.
If you need to itch your face, wash your hands thoroughly before doing so, and don’t touch your mask.
Wear your mask at home
Wearing your mask at home is not necessary. All it accomplishes is dirtying your masks more quickly.
You should wear your masks at all times when you are out of your home, though, unless you are engaging in strenuous exercise by yourself.
Whether you bought a face mask at the store, improvised one using a bandana, or made your own, you should be following all these face mask safety tips to a tee. Wearing your mask correctly is not a guaranteed way to protect yourself from coronavirus, but it’s one of the best methods we know of at this time.
SPEAKING OF MAKING YOUR OWN MASKS, CHECK OUT THIS DIY TUTORIAL ABOUT HOW TO MAKE A MEDICAL-GRADE FACE MASK AT HOME.