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Wearing and Caring for Masks and Face Coverings

To help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), health experts recommend that:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you (called social distancing or physical distancing).
  • Clean our hands well and often.
  • Wear a mask (or face covering) when leaving our homes.
  • Follow local and national health department recommendations.

How Does a Mask Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

Coronavirus can spread when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Wearing a mask keeps the virus from reaching others. It also can stop the virus from reaching you. If everyone wears a mask when they're out in public, fewer people will get sick.

Masks do not replace social distancing. Outside your home, stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.

Should People Who Are Not Sick Wear a Mask?

People with coronavirus may not have symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. So even people without symptoms should wear a mask.

Who Should Not Wear a Mask?

  • Children under 2 years old should not wear a mask.
  • Someone who is sick and has trouble breathing should not wear a mask.
  • Anyone who can't take a mask off without help (for example, if they're unconscious) should not wear a mask.

What Is the Best Way to Put on a Mask?

  1. Before touching your mask or face covering, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Pick up the mask by the strings or ear loops, if it has them. If you have a cloth face covering that does not have strings or ear loops, try to pick it up in an area that will not touch your face.
  3. Adjust the strings, ear loops, or cloth face covering so it fits snugly against your face. There should be no gaps on the side of your face.
  4. The mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
  5. Do not pull the mask down to talk, cough, or sneeze.

What Is the Best Way to Remove a Mask?

  1. Before taking off your mask or face covering, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Untie the strings or remove by the ear loops, if your mask has them. If you have a cloth face covering that does not have strings or ear loops, remove the covering by touching a part of it that does not touch the face.
  3. Fold the mask together (with the part that touches the face on the inside) and place in a clean paper bag or into the washing machine.
  4. Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

How Should We Take Care of Masks and Cloth Face Coverings?

  • Wash any worn masks at least once a day, or more often if they look dirty. If the manufacturer gave any special directions, follow them. Use the warmest settings on the washer and dryer that's safe for the material.
  • It's OK to put your mask in the washing machine and dryer with your other laundry.
  • Don't share masks unless they're washed and dried first.
  • Don't store your mask with other people's masks. You can store each mask in its own clean paper bag or hang each one separately on a hook.

How Can I Clean My Mask Without a Washer and Dryer?

If you don't have a washer or dryer, you can hand wash your mask in a bleach solution and let it air dry:

  1. Mix 4 tablespoons (60 cc) of household bleach in 1 quart (1 liter) of room temperature water.
  2. Soak your mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
  3. Rinse well with room temperature water.
  4. Let mask air dry completely (in direct sunlight, if possible).
Date reviewed: August 2020