Hygienic use of fabric face masks
Fabric face masks should only be used if hygienic use conditions are applied. This video and the below infographic from the WHO summarizes how to safely wear a fabric face mask. Hygienic use includes daily washing or decontamination. Fabric masks should be machine or hand washed in hot soapy water (water should be at least 60 degrees centigrade or as hot as permitted by the fabric) with standard laundry detergent and fully dried before reuse (a machine dryer is preferable). If a machine washer or hot water is not available, the WHO and CDC recommend soaking fabric masks in a dilute chlorine solution (0.1% chlorine, 1 part household bleach [typically 5% chlorine] to 49 parts water) for 1-5 minutes before rinsing and drying or boiling for 1 minute. Note that bleach may discolor some fabrics.
The safe and hygienic use of fabric masks among hygiene promoters is described in this section.
Safe use of surgical masks
If surgical masks are being used outside of healthcare settings then it is important that community members are well informed about how to wear, handle and dispose of surgical masks. For guidance on the safe use of surgical masks, please watch this video or see the below infographic from the WHO. Please see this resource for more information on how to safely dispose of used surgical masks.
Want to learn more about mask use for interrupting the spread of COVID-19?
- How could wearing a mask reduce COVID-19 transmission?
- What types of masks are there and what are they designed to do?
- What is a N95 respirator and who should use one?
- What is a surgical mask and who should use one?
- What is a fabric mask, who should use one, and how should they be made?
- What should be considered when making fabric masks?
- Hygienic use of fabric face masks
- What is an occupational mask and who should wear one?
- Why doesn’t the WHO recommend that everyone wears face masks in all settings?
- What do we know about the effectiveness of masks to prevent and COVID-19 transmission in community settings?
- What can modelling studies tell us about the effectiveness of wearing masks?
- How well do masks work under laboratory (experimental) conditions?
- Do homemade masks increase the risk of respiratory disease?
- How might an evolving understanding of virus transmission affect mask recommendations?
- Should hygiene promotion staff wear masks to protect themselves and others?