Know the Facts about Coronavirus in our Community

Face Masks: How to Wear, Remove, and Make Your Own

The CDC recommends that everyone wears a face covering when in public at all times. Here's everything you need to know about face masks during the COVID-19 outbreak.

April 19, 2020

Couple wearing face masks

Face coverings are recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Since there is a portion of the population who are infected but not showing symptoms (asymptomatic), the CDC recommends that everyone wears a face covering when in public at all times.

How do face coverings and face masks work?

Face coverings and masks are meant to protect people from getting infected while in public. They help prevent harmful air particles from entering the mouth and nose. 

The CDC recommends you continue to practice safe social distancing (also known as physical distancing) by keeping six feet between yourself and others at all times. Face coverings and face masks should not substitute social distancing. 

Who should cover their face?

Everyone over the age of two* should wear a face covering or mask when they are in public. The CDC says it is especially important to cover your face when you go to the grocery store or to pick up necessities where people generally gather.

However, the general public should not wear N95 face masks since the global supply is limited (more on N95 and other types of masks below).

*others who should not wear a face covering include anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Types of face coverings and face masks

There are three main types of face coverings: cloth face coverings, surgical face masks, and N95 respirator face masks. Cloth face coverings are the only coverings that should be worn by the general public.

Cloth Face Coverings are face coverings made from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost.

A cloth face covering helps prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others. This is especially important given some people are infected but do not show symptoms.

Surgical Masks are typically used in healthcare settings. They fit across the nose and mouth, shielding against large droplets in the air. Surgical masks are too loose to protect against all germs, nor will they block the smallest particles that may carry coronavirus.

N95 Respirator Masks (also known as medical respirator masks) are tight-fitting respirator masks that reduce exposure to particles including small particle aerosols and large droplets. N95 masks filter out at least 95% of airborne particles.

N95 masks are recommended only for use by healthcare personnel who need protection from both airborne and fluid hazards. These masks are not to be used outside of healthcare settings.

Guidelines for wearing a face covering

Face masks - how to wear them.

Incorrectly wearing your face mask can cause harmful air particles to enter and leave your mouth and nose, increasing your risk of getting or spreading the coronavirus.

Your face covering should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be laundered and machine dried without damaging or changing the shape

Putting on your face covering

Step 1 – Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Step 2 – Inspect your face covering for holes or tears

Step 3 – Place covering over your mouth, like so:

  • With Ear Loops: Hold by ear loops and place a loop around each ear
  • With Ties: Bring to your nose, place ties over the crown of your head, and tie

Step 4 – Pull the covering over the bridge of your nose, mouth, and chin

Removing your face covering

Step 1 – Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching the front of the mask.

Step 2 –

With Ear Loops: Gently lift and remove mask holding both ear loops

With Ties: Untie the bottom bow, then untie the top bow, and pull mask away 

Step 3 – If disposable, throw the mask in the trash. Otherwise, put your reusable cloth mask directly into your laundry hamper or washing machine for cleaning

Making your own cloth face mask

You can make your own cloth face mask with common items around the house and a sewing machine.

What you’ll need:

  • Two 10” x 6” rectangles of cotton fabric from a t-shirt, scarf, or towel
  • Two 6” pieces of elastic or rubber bands, string, cloth strips, or hair ties
  • Needle and thread, or bobby pin
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine

Steps

1. Stack the two pieces of fabric together and sew into a single piece of fabric.

2. Fold the long sides ¼ inch and hem.

3. Fold the double layer of fabric over ½ inch along the short sides and stitch down.

4. To make ear loops, run a six-inch length of elastic through the opening of the wider hem on each side. Use a needle or bobby pin to thread through.

5. Tie the ends tightly.

6. Gently tug the elastic so the knots are tucked inside the hem.

7. Stitch the elastic in place so it doesn’t slip.

Do I need a filter?

A filter can block even smaller particles from entering your nose and mouth, and you can add a filter to your homemade face mask by cutting up a polypropylene, a material commonly found in reusable shopping bags.

Add the filter between layers of cotton or other woven fabric. This is important to ensure tiny fibers don’t enter your lungs.

Don’t have a sewing machine? 

Learn How to Safely Remove Disposable Gloves

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