A study of fabric masks in a hospital setting found that surgical masks performed better than fabric masks in preventing respiratory infection. This study also found that use of fabric masks resulted in higher risk of infection than ‘standard practice’. This result has been widely misinterpreted to mean fabric masks increase the risk of infection compared with not wearing a mask at all. This is incorrect because wearing fabric masks was compared to ‘standard practice’ which, in the study settings, included mask wearing in certain scenarios. Even so, fabric mask use is not recommended for healthcare settings.

However, proper mask use and hygiene is important. If masks are improperly used (touched during wear without proper hand hygiene, continued wear after becoming damp or soiled), there is a potential for self-contamination. Please see the section on hygienic mask use for further information.

Want to learn more about mask use for interrupting the spread of COVID-19?

Editor's note

Author: Jackie Knee
Review: Peter Winch, Julie Watson
Last update: 06.18.2020

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