As the pandemic continues to rage on, face masks have become an integral part of our everyday lives. But wearing a mask is not enough to minimise the spread of COVID-19—it’s all about maintaining meticulous hygiene in the way we handle, store and dispose of them. Lest we get complacent, let’s remind ourselves of the dos and don’ts of mask-wearing.
If we are to take this pandemic seriously, we ought to regard strict hygiene as the most important step in mitigating the spread of the virus. Hygiene doesn’t just refer to the way we clean and sanitise our hands—wearing masks requires specific hygiene practices in order for them to actually be effective against the virus.
What counts as a face mask?
Medical masks provide the best protection against the spread of COVID-19, but they should be reserved for medical professionals and frontliners, as global supply is limited. Disposable masks and reusable cloth ones will also do the trick of keeping your nose and mouth covered, as long as you wear and handle them properly.
DO use face masks that cover your nose and mouth adequately.
DO use face shields, as they cover the entire face.
DO have several face masks on hand, so that you have something to wear while you are cleaning the others (for reusable cloth masks).
DON’T pull up your shirt to use as a face mask.
DON’T use your hand as a face mask; it doesn’t count.
How to properly wear face masks
While it may seem like common sense to wear a face mask over your mouth and nose, people desperately need to be reminded of this. You’ve seen it yourself—people are wearing masks as chin caps, forehead covers and even neck warmers. And there are those who do put the masks on their faces but leave their noses sticking out. What’s the point of that?
DO practice proper hand hygiene before putting on your face mask. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitiser every single time you touch your mask—before and after—to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
DO wear your mask properly—over your nose and mouth—and refrain from touching the outside of the mask while you are wearing it.
DO remember that the outside of the mask is considered dirty. Ensure that you know which side is which—a good way is to make a mark with permanent ink, so that you never get mixed up. Many masks are patterned, making it easy to know which side is which.
DON’T become lazy when wearing your mask—it doesn’t belong on your chin, neck or anywhere else.
DON’T reuse single-use or disposable face masks.
DON’T share face masks with anyone else.
How to properly store face masks
Good hygiene doesn’t just end with wearing face masks—it also involves handling, cleaning and storing them properly.
DO fold your face mask in half, and make sure the dirty or outside part is folded on itself (to avoid cross-contamination), meaning that the outside surfaces are touching each other.
DO handle the face masks only by touching the ear loops or ties.
DO keep a CLEAN container—such as a self-sealing baggie—on hand for storing your mask every time you remove it.
DON’T put your mask in a bag or pocket unless it is in its clean container.
DON’T leave your mask lying around and exposed.
How to properly dispose of and clean face masks
Using either disposable or reusable face masks is acceptable. If you’re conscious of the environment and don’t want to generate a lot of trash, cloth face masks that can be washed and reused are a good solution.
DO use disposable masks only once.
DO dispose of single-use masks properly—in a trash can.
DO reuse cloth face masks, as long as they are still clean.
DO wash your cloth face mask religiously and thoroughly—by hand or in the washing machine, with soap and hot water.
DON’T wash your cloth face mask in the dishwasher.
DON’T throw used masks on the ground or leave them lying around.
DON’T use face masks—whether disposable or reusable—if they are wet, torn, have a weird smell or are soiled in any way.
DON’T use cloth face masks if they are still damp after washing, as a moist environment can invite mould to grow. Make sure they are properly dried before donning them.
Now that mask-wearing is the new norm, it can be easy to take it for granted and become complacent. A check every so often is important—we must remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19. While it may seem extra to perform all the necessary sanitising and follow such particular rules when it comes to mask-wearing, it’s the best defence we have against this dreadful virus. /TISG