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Mask Etiquette and Care: What You Need to Know

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Author name: Lee Health


The proper way to wear a mask graphic

The evidence is in. Face coverings keep us safer and help slow COVID-19. That’s an important fact to remember the next time you visit the grocery store or meet up with friends inside a public venue.

Combined with regularly sanitizing our hands and social distancing, we can all help slow the spread of a pandemic that continues to infect people all over the world and right here in Southwest Florida.

So if we’re going to be dedicated to wearing masks, it only makes sense that we know just HOW to wear them and how to clean them so we can get the most use out of them. Read on for all the details.

The right way to wear your face mask

  • Wash your hands before putting on your mask.
  • Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead.
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin. This is an important one to remember since many residents report that some mask wearers have their noses poking out.
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face.
  • Make sure you can breathe easily.
  • Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, wash your hands.

When you get home, remove your face mask carefully

  • Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops.
  • Handle only by the ear loops or ties.
  • Fold outside corners together.
  • Wearing a cloth mask? You must wash it after EVERY use.
  • Wearing a paper mask? Throw it away after each use.
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing.

What about paper or surgical masks? What about homemade masks?

Experts highly recommend that members of the public wear cloth masks. Paper or surgical masks are effective in blocking large droplets, but they don’t provide as much safety as cloth because of the looser fit. They are better than nothing, however.

Remember, paper or surgical masks are designed to be used only ONCE! For more info, click here.

Many people are opting to wear homemade masks. The CDC shows detailed instructions on how to make masks here. Cotton fabric is recommended, and you can also make masks out of bandanas and old T-shirts—as long as the fabric is solid. Masks with loose fabric such as a crochet mask are not recommended.

Keep your face mask clean!

So how should you wash that cloth mask? Simply put it in the washing machine with a regular load of laundry. You can use normal detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the kind of cloth you have.

You can wash your mask by hand using a bleach solution. Find full directions here.

Dry your mask on the highest heat setting in the dryer or you can lay it flat or on a clothesline in the sun. Make sure your mask is completely dry before wearing it.

Other mask tidbits to remember

  • Everyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask in public.
  • Cloth face coverings should NOT be worn by children under 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is incapacitated or can’t remove the mask without help. Click here for “Feasibility and Adaptations” from the CDC.
  • Some studies suggest that COVID-19 numbers and deaths could be drastically reduced if 80 to 95 percent of our population wore masks.

Remember: Masks may not protect you, but they protect other people when social distancing isn’t possible. The virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. That means you are doing a generous public service when you decide to wear a mask.

Sources: Florida's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection. Lee, Collier, Port Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades. July 1, 2020.

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