This Version Posted: May 21, 2020
Face masks have become the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to know when and how to wear a mask properly.
Medical masks (like surgical and N-95):
These must be kept for health care providers and for those providing direct care for someone with COVID-19.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and need to seek medical care, wear a mask. Your health provider may also recommend you wear a mask while you’re seeking or waiting for care. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading around you when you cough or sneeze.
Masks MUST be put on, taken off and thrown out properly. If you need to wear a mask, be sure to clean your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. When wearing a mask, follow this Public Health Ontario fact sheet on how to properly wear and throw away one.
Homemade (Cloth) Masks
Non-medical masks (like homemade cloth masks and facial coverings) are NOT medical devices, are unregulated and are NOT proven to protect the person wearing them from getting COVID-19. The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 remains washing your hands with soap and water, staying home and avoiding close contact with others outside your household.
If worn properly, non-medical masks can help to cover your mouth and nose to prevent your respiratory droplets from contaminating other people or landing on common surfaces. However, wearing cloth masks can also give you a false sense of security and may in fact cause you to touch your face more often when adjusting the mask.
Despite this, some people may choose to wear a mask when leaving their homes for essential trips (grocery store, pharmacy). The Ontario government is also recommending people use face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when physical distancing and keeping two metres’ distance from others may be challenging. This includes wearing face coverings on public transit, smaller grocery stores/pharmacies, or when receiving essential services. The Public Health Agency of Canada advises that putting on a homemade mask can possibly help protect others around you if you’re ill with COVID-19 and do not yet know it.
It’s good to wear a homemade mask or facial covering if it makes you feel safer and stops you from touching your face and mouth. But remember: do not touch your face with unwashed hands. You need to also continue practising physical distancing.
Homemade masks or facial coverings should not be worn/put on by:
- Children under age 2
- Anyone who has trouble breathing
- Someone who is unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove the mask without help.
How to Properly Use a Homemade Mask/Face Covering:
- Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (use good hand hygiene while wearing it too)
- Masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against your face (non-gaping) allowing you to breathe without restriction. Masks should be secured with ties or ear loops and have multiple fabric layers
- Do not share cloth masks with others
- Remember not to touch or rub your eyes while wearing it
- Avoid moving, adjusting or touching your mask while using it, as it could become contaminated on the outside.
- Change face coverings if they get slightly wet or dirty
- Wash the cloth mask after each use as it can get damp or dirty:
- Put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of
- Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after putting the mask into the laundry.
- Homemade masks that cannot be washed should be thrown out in a properly lined garbage bin as soon as they get damp, dirty or crumpled. Do not throw used masks on the ground or in a shopping cart. Immediately after wash your hands with soap and water.
Summary Do’s and Don’ts for Using Homemade Masks/Face Coverings
- Wash your hands immediately before putting on and immediately after taking off a face covering or face mask
- Practise good hand hygiene while you are wearing the face covering
- Make sure the face covering fits well around your nose and mouth
- Avoid moving the mask around or adjusting it often
- Avoid touching the covering while using it
- Change the face covering or face mask when it gets slightly wet or dirty
- Share face coverings or face masks with others
- Place on children under the age of two years or on anyone unable to remove without assistance or who has trouble breathing
- Use plastic or other non-breathable materials as a face covering or face mask