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The Different Types of Face Masks and How to Use Them


Photo: Griffin Wooldridge on Unsplash

It is no secret that face masks have become an integral part of daily life. Worn in public to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 through respiratory particles transmitted through the air, it’s important to understand the different types of masks. Even if you don’t have symptoms of Covid-19 you still need to follow your countries guidelines, as asymptomatic carriers can spread the virus without even knowing it. From fabric masks to N95s this is how to use, keep, and dispose of them.

How to Use a Mask Properly

Many of us are on autopilot when wearing and removing our masks. There is, however, a method for doing it properly to help decrease the risk of contamination. Firstly always wash your hands with soap and water before putting on your mask, if this isn’t an option make sure to apply hand sanitizer. Next, make sure you are applying the interior surface to your skin. Ensure whatever mask you are using is tight to the skin and covering your entire nose and mouth.

It is important to try not to touch the mask, even the elastic bands or string when you are wearing it, to reduce the risk of contamination. When it comes to removing the mask wash your hands before slipping the least bands over your eyes or untying the strings. Try not to grab the front of the mask and instead use the elastic or strings to fold it in half to store it, wash it, or dispose of it. Always make sure to wash your hands again.

Face Mask

Photo: Instagram/@dubaimediaoffice

Surgical & N95 Masks 

Surgical masks are some of the most common masks seen, often blue and made out of nonwoven fabric. N95 masks are most commonly white and used by healthcare professionals for their effectiveness in blocking respiratory particles. In short supply around the world, many healthcare professionals have called upon the public to donate any spare N95 masks they may have.

According to Americas Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), these masks cannot be cleaned. Water and cleaning products may damage them, diminishing their effectiveness. However, there is ongoing research into the use of ultraviolet light to disinfect those that are still in good use.

The CDC has said that for masks that have not been damaged they can be used up to five times by the same person. It is of utmost importance that they are removed properly and stored facing inwards to avoid contamination. Dispose of masks in a paper or plastic bag.

Fabric Masks 

These are masks created with woven fibers. These are the best options for everyday use as they can be washed and re-worn. It is best to have several on rotation so there is always a clean one ready for you to use.

When washing your mask ensure if it has a removable filter, to do so, and remove any elastics or straps. When using a washing machine it is best to invest in a mesh washing bag to ensure they don’t get damaged or tangled up with any clothes. Yes, it’s safe to wash with other household items as long as the wash is set to hot and the cycle normal.

When hand washing these masks, fill the sink with hot water. Add a teaspoon of detergent, wash them, and then make sure to rinse with cool water. Always make sure to dry the face masks in a dryer or in direct sunlight on a drying rack.

Store masks in a sealable bag before your next use.

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