Use of Masks to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19
How to Select, Wear, and Clean Your Mask
CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings, like on public and mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people.
- Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19
- Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
- Masks should be worn by people two years and older
- Masks should NOT be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance
- Do NOT wear masks intended for healthcare workers, for example, N95 respirators
- CDC does not recommend the use of face shields alone. Evaluation of face shields is ongoing but effectiveness is unknown at this time.
- Evaluation of mask and gaiter materials and structure is ongoing.
How to Wear
Wear a mask correctly and consistently for the best protection.
- Be sure to wash your hands before putting on a mask
- Do NOT touch the mask when wearing it
Do wear a mask that:
- Covers your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
- Fits snugly against the sides of your face
How NOT to wear a mask
- Around your neck
- On your forehead
- Under your nose
- On your chin
- Dangling from one ear
- On your arm
How to take off a 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
- Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing
How to Clean
Masks should be washed regularly. Always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask.
- Include your mask with your regular laundry
- Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask
- Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry
Evidence for Effectiveness of Masks
Your mask helps protect those around you
COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in.
Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.
You should wear a mask, even if you do not feel sick. This is because several studies have found that people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people. The main function of wearing a mask is to protect those around you, in case you are infected but not showing symptoms.
It is especially important to wear a mask when you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart from others since COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
Your mask offers some protection to you
A cloth mask also offers some protection to you too. How well it protects you from breathing in the virus likely depends on the fabrics used and how your mask is made (e.g. the type of fabric, the number of layers of fabric, how well the mask fits). CDC is currently studying these factors.
Types of masks
Some masks work better to help stop the spread of COVID-19 outside of healthcare settings. Medical masks and N-95 respirators should not be used because they should be conserved for healthcare workers.
The most effective fabrics for cloth masks are
- Tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton and cotton blends
- Two or three layers
Less effective fabrics for cloth masks are
- Loosely woven fabrics, such as loose knit fabrics
- Difficult to breathe through (like plastic or leather)
- Single layer
CDC is currently studying the effectiveness of various cloth mask materials. We will update this guidance as we learn more.
Non-medical disposable masks
Disposable face masks are single-use masks. They are sold online and through large retail stores. These are not the same as surgical or other medical masks.
You may prefer using disposable masks in situations where your mask is likely to get wet or dirty. As with cloth masks, make sure your disposable mask fits close to your face without large side-gaps and completely covers your nose and mouth. Bring extra disposable masks with you in case you need to change out a dirty or wet mask.
Masks with exhalation valves or vents
CDC does not recommend using masks with exhalation valves or vents because this type of mask may not prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to others. The hole in the material may allow your respiratory droplets to escape and reach others. Research on the effectiveness of these types of masks is ongoing.
Surgical masks and respirators
Do not use surgical masks and respirators that are meant for healthcare workers. Currently, surgical masks and respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders to prevent supply shortages.
Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel
Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask for people who interact with
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Young children or students learning to read
- Students learning a new language
- People with disabilities
- People who need to see the proper shape of the mouth for making appropriate vowel sounds, e.g., in singing
If you use this type of mask, make sure
- You can breathe easily
- Excess moisture does not collect on the inside of the mask
- You remove the mask before sleeping, since the plastic part could form a seal around your mouth and nose and make it hard to breathe
Other Types of Face Protection
CDC does not recommend using face shields or goggles as a substitute for masks. Do NOT put a plastic face shield (or a mask) on newborns or infants.
Face shields and goggles are primarily used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. Goggles do not cover the nose and mouth. Face shields have large gaps below and alongside the face, where your respiratory droplets may escape and reach others around you. At this time, we do not know how much protection a face shield provides to people around you. However, wearing a mask may not be feasible in every situation for some people.
This information was sourced from the Centers for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html