Now that more people are beginning to wear protective face masks, either P2/N95 rated masks, surgical masks or even homemade masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus transmission, it’s important that they use them correctly to get the best protection and avoid accidental contamination.
Here’s how to safely put on, use and remove a protective face mask in 5 easy steps!
1. Wash Hands Before Putting On a Mask
Begin by washing your hands first with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
The reason for washing first is so that you don’t transfer any germs that might be already on your hands onto the mask, which will be touching your face. Protective masks are sterilized so they’re free of germs and viruses when you buy them. You don’t want to contaminate the mask when you’re handing it!
2. Fit the Mask So It Covers Your Nose AND Mouth
For the mask to work properly, it must cover your mouth and nose, yes both!
Adjust the mask so it fits well and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
If the mask has a metal strip along the top edge, pinch it so it sits gently on the bridge of your nose.
3. Don’t Touch The Mask While Wearing It – It’s NOT Clean!
Avoid touching the mask while using it, especially the front of it, as it may be contaminated!
If the mask is doing its job and capturing respiratory droplets in the air carrying the virus, it will not be safe to touch the outer layer. Treat it like any other surface in a public area – don’t touch it as you might transfer the virus to your fingers!
If you do touch the mask, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or clean them using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
4. Replace Damp Masks Immediately
When a mask becomes damp, replace the mask with a new one. Do not re-use single-use masks.
A cloth or fabric DIY face mask can be reused if it’s cleaned regularly in the correct way, either by heat sterilizing it in an oven at 70 degrees C (160 degrees F) for 30-60 minutes, or UV sterilizing it by exposing both sides to an ultraviolet (UV) sterilizer lamp, time required will depend on the sterilizer used.
5. Always Remove Masks From Behind, Don’t Touch the Front – It’s NOT Clean!
To remove the mask, take hold of the straps from the back of your head and pull forward. Do not touch the material part of the mask as it may be contaminated!
Discard used masks immediately in a closed bin and then wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or clean them using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. You don’t want to accidentally transfer the virus to your hands, because if you then touch anything, you can spread it!
(Image credits – title image – Government of Singapore, all other images – United Nations World Health Organisation)
For more information on protective face masks, please see the following articles: