Face masks are a protective tool used to cover your nose and mouth, which are the two key entry points for dust, pollen, chemical vapours, viruses and other harmful substances. Their use has seen an increase, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Face masks reduce the spread of germs through coughing, sneezing or talking by covering the wearer's nose and mouth and have various types.
Surgical face masks are three-layered masks protecting the transmission of large microorganisms and also reduce the chances of hand-to-face contact. The surgical face masks layers function as follows.
- The outermost layer protects against droplets like blood, water, and body fluids.
- The middle layer repels pathogens by filtering them.
- The innermost layer absorbs moisture and other particles in expelled air.
However, the edges of surgical masks are not tightly sealed; therefore, they do not give protection against small particles and microorganisms.
Another type are N95 respirators which are a facial fit and are efficient against all types of airborne particles and microorganisms. N95 masks are generally recommended for front-line healthcare providers.
But wearing a mask is not enough to protect you against harmful materials. Understanding how to put on and take off a mask properly can help you to be better protected and prevent you from accidentally contaminating yourself or others while wearing a mask.
Most of the face masks are disposable, which should be used once and discarded in the rubbish after use. There are proper guidelines for wearing, removing and discarding a face mask, which must be followed every time to prevent the spread of diseases.
In an industrial setting, your employer will inform you on how to safely use face masks and other personal protection equipment (PPE). It is important to follow your employers guidelines on wearing, removing and discarding your PPE.
How do I put on a face mask?
The following steps are to be followed when putting on a face mask.
- First and foremost, wash your hands properly with soap for at least 20 seconds or clean them with an alcohol-based sanitiser.
- Check the mask for any broken loop, holes or another breakage.
- From the two sides, the coloured side of the mask should be outwards away from your mouth.
- In some masks a metallic strip is present, make sure it's on the upper side positioned on the nose.
- Masks have different designs and should be worn accordingly.
Ear loops: Wear this mask by holding both ear loops and placing them over each ear.
Ties: Tie the upper strings near the crown of your head and tie the lower strings near the nape of the neck. Tie the strings in the form of a secure bow.
Elastic bands: Pull the upper band over your head, positioning it against the crown of your head. The lower band should be set against the nape of your neck.
Adjust the metallic strip on your nose and press it firmly. Properly cover the chin and mouth with the bottom of the mask. Make sure the mask fits properly.
Do not touch the mask once you have put it on.
Replace the moist, soiled and damped mask with the new one.
How do I remove the face mask?
It is equally important to remove the mask safely to prevent the transfer of germs through your hands or mouth.
Instructions on how to remove your mask may be different for those whose job requires the use of a face mask. There may be additional guidelines, such as only removing your face mask in a designated area. Check with your employer if you are unsure.
- Wash your hands properly with soap or use a hand sanitiser.
- Do not touch the mask directly as it contains germs, instead hold it from loops, ties or bands.
- Carefully remove the mask from your face according to its type.
Ear Loops: Unhook the ear loops from around the back of your ear. Use both hands at the same time to prevent the mask from falling onto the floor or touching your clothes.
Ties: Untie the strings starting with the bottom knot, which sits at the nape of your neck, before untying the knot on the top of your head.
Elastic bands: Remove the lower band by lifting it over your head followed by the upper band
- After removing, discard the mask in accordance with your local guidelines and rewash your hand with soap or use hand sanitiser.
How do I discard the mask?
It is essential to discard the mask properly to avoid any spread.
- Remove the mask gently. Do not shake or disturb the liquid or solid droplets on the mask as doing so could spread harmful materials to other surfaces.
- Place the used mask in a plastic bag or zip-lock bag if you can.
- Secure the bag tightly with a knot.
- Place the bag properly in the rubbish bin or disposal unit. Preferably, you should discard of the bagged mask in a lidded bin.
- Wash hands appropriately after disposing of the mask.
Always wash your hands with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser before putting on a new mask.
Cleaning your face mask
Disposable face masks, such as those you can buy online from us, cannot be cleaned. Attempting to clean a disposable face mask can damage the material and render the mask ineffective at protecting you from harmful substances. If your disposable face mask becomes wet or soiled whilst you are wearing it, you should discard of the used mask and don a new one.
If your mask is reusable, there are two key ways of cleaning the mask. Both methods disinfect the mask by exposing viruses and bacteria to temperatures well above their tolerances, thus killing the germs.
The first method is to put your mask in the washing machine. Your washing machine should be set to 60 °C. Use regular washing powder to clean your face mask.
The second method is to clean your mask in a pan of boiling water with some washing powder.
Freezing your face mask, in order to kill the viruses and bacteria, is ineffective and can damage the fabric of the mask.
Always store your masks in a dry, dust free area. Ideally, you should have a dedicated storage space for your PPE to prevent cross contamination. The storage should be away from any potential contaminants.
If your face masks are individually wrapped, do not remove the face mask from the wrapper until you are ready to wear one.
We hope this guide helps those who are unfamiliar with donning and doffing face masks. It is important to be careful when putting on and removing face masks to avoiding contamination.