As communities and businesses around the world institute new guidelines in response to COVID-19 that require wearing a face mask, it’s important to know the basics about how to choose and wear a face mask for optimal protection. Maintaining 6-feet social distancing practices remains important to slowing the spread of the virus even with a mask on. Face coverings can help slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
Choose the Right Type of Face Mask
While the CDC and other experts recommend wearing a face mask, they also stress that cloth face masks do not replace the need for washing hands or social distancing, and do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control recommends using cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are hard to maintain. If you’re an essential worker, your job may require you to wear a mask at all times while performing your duties.
Choose a Face Mask That Fits Properly
A mask that is too tight or too loose and requires frequent adjustment defeats the essential purpose of your face covering. Look for masks that:
- Fits snugly but comfortably against the side of your face
- Can be secured with ties or ear loops
- Allow for easy breathing without restriction
- Can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to the shape
How to Correctly Put On and Remove a Face Mask
- Always clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before applying your mask
- Cover your nose and mouth completely as you put on your mask
- Once your mask is on, avoid touching it and adjusting it as much as possible
- When removing your mask, be careful not to touch your eyes or nose.
- Wash and/or disinfect your hands immediately after removing
- Store your mask in a clean, protected space
(Note that the CDC recommends that face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.)
Clean and Care for Your Face Mask
Ideally, masks should be washed after each use, even if your mask includes a filter. In addition to potentially harmful airborne contaminants, moisture from your breath, sweat, oils, and makeup can cling to your mask and cause bacteria. It’s critical to have more than one mask to wear and a plan for laundering that allows you a fresh mask each day.
Washing Your Face Mask
Heat can be effective at destroying viruses, making hot water your first choice to help disinfect your face mask. World Health Organization tests showed that a temperature of 132.8°F was high enough to kill the coronavirus that causes SARS, a virus similar to COVID-19. If your machine has a sanitizing cycle, which usually reaches a water temperature of 150-165°F, use it! Otherwise, choose the hottest temperature available. Other tips for washing:
- A mesh laundry bag will offer protection during the wash cycle
- Look for “pre-shrunk” or “pre-washed” mask fabrics
- To save energy, place your face mask in the wash with other items that can withstand hot water such as linens and towels
- For hand-washing, use warm/hot (not scalding) water and scrub the mask for at least 20 seconds.
Drying Your Face Mask
The CDC recommends drying cloth face coverings completely in a hot dryer. You may want to consider ironing your mask to kill any lingering germs and help the mask retain its shape. After washing and drying, you should store the mask in a clean container or bag before use.
Handling and Storing Your Face Mask
To prevent the spread of germs from a mask to another person, the CDC suggests that the mask’s wearer should typically be the only one handling it. If that’s not possible in your household, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the laundry.
If you’re an essential worker who has to wear a mask every day, it’s smart to have a few different masks on hand so you don’t have to wash a mask every day. Frequent washing, especially in hot water, can break down fibers more quickly and degrade the fabric. Worn-out fabric will be much less effective in capturing airborne particles. Carefully check your mask for holes or worn out areas.
Wearing Glasses with Your Face Mask
If you have to wear glasses, you have probably run into the issue of having your glasses fog up when you’re wearing a mask. The issue can be better or worse depending on the fit of the mask and the weather. If your mask is making it difficult to see through your glasses, try these tips:
- Tighten the overall fit around your face
- Your mask may not be tight enough around the bridge of your nose. If your mask has a metal band try adjusting it more closely to the contours of your face
- Adjust the position of your mask and glasses
- Try lowering where the mask sits on your face, but not so much that the majority of your nose and all of your mouth are not covered
- Wash your glasses in soap and water to create a protective film on the lenses that prevents fogging
- Try a commercial anti-fogging spray
HEPA Grade Filter Face Masks
HEPA filters are designed to clear out at least 99.7 percent of particulates that are 0.3 microns or larger in size. In response to the coronavirus, Lancs has added a new face mask to our line of Protective Clothing. Our mask has an internal layer of HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) grade filter media with a minimum efficiency of 99.97%, and is used in other products to filter gases at nuclear facilities.
Remember that a simple face covering will not offer full protection from the coronavirus. To help stop the virus’s spread, avoid contact with people who are sick, stay 6 feet away from others (social distancing) and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.
Read more about face coverings from the CDC.
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