Coronavirus Resources Health Care

The Right Way to Wear and Clean Your Face Mask

A woman wearing a cloth face mask at the grocery store.
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By now you know one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a mask or cloth face covering in public, especially when social distancing is difficult. But — is it OK to raise and lower your mask while you wear it? Should you wash your hands after touching it? Knowing how to use a face covering properly may make all the difference in protecting yourself and others.

Why Face Coverings Work

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main way coronavirus spreads is from person to person — through tiny droplets that are released when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs. These droplets can travel about 6 feet.

Wearing a covering over your mouth and nose when you can’t be at least 6 feet away from others can help prevent the spread of the virus by keeping these droplets from spreading in the air. This is especially important because many people who have COVID-19 don’t actually have symptoms and may not realize they are infected.

Who Should Wear a Face Covering

The CDC recommends that all people over age 2 wear a mask or face covering when out in public. The only exceptions are children under age 2, anyone who is unconscious or having trouble breathing, and those who can’t remove their mask without help from someone else.

When and How to Wear Your Face Covering

You should wear your face covering whenever you’re in public and can’t maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others — whether you are indoors or outdoors. For example, you should wear your mask in a store or pharmacy where you might pass others at a close distance. It’s also important to wear one when you’re outside in a crowded area, like a city sidewalk, park or busy gas station.

To make sure your face covering is doing its job, you need to make sure it’s on correctly.

  • First, wash your hands before you put on your face covering

  • Fit the cloth over your nose and mouth, making sure it’s secured under your chin

  • Pull the cloth snugly against the sides of your face so there are no gaps

  • Be sure you can breathe easily under the mask

  • There are many styles of masks available — if one kind doesn’t fit well, you may want to try a different kind

  • Keep the face covering on the whole time you’re out in public

  • While you’re wearing the face covering, don’t touch it; if you do touch it by mistake, wash your hands

Knowing how to remove your face covering is also important:

  • Slip off the ear loops or untie the strings

  • Be careful to touch only the loops or ties, not the part that covers your face, and fold the outside corners together If it’s reusable, put your face covering in the washing machine or hand wash in the sink (see below)

  • Wash your hands as soon as you remove the face covering

How to Clean Your Face Covering

The CDC recommends washing your cloth face covering after each time you wear it. You may want to have a few available so you always have a clean one. Cloth face coverings can be cleaned in the washing machine or by hand.

To use a washing machine:

  • Put your face covering in with your regular laundry

  • Use your normal laundry detergent and wash at the warmest water setting possible for your load

To wash by hand:

  • Mix a bleach solution of 5 tablespoons (about 1/3 cup) household bleach with 1 gallon of room-temperature water or 4 teaspoons household bleach with 1 quart of room-temperature water

  • Make sure your bleach is a product that disinfects. Some bleach products that are safe to use on colored clothing may not disinfect properly. Also, make sure your bleach isn’t beyond its expiration date as it may not work as effectively.

  • Soak your face covering in the bleach solution for five minutes.

  • Rinse with cool water.

Once your face covering is clean, be sure to dry it completely. You can toss it in a dryer at the highest setting or lay it flat to dry, in direct sunlight if possible.

Stay Healthy, Safe and Informed

To ensure you’re taking the steps necessary to stay healthy and safe, follow recommendations from trusted sources like the CDC and state health officials. You can also find a wide range of information on COVID-19, including answers to frequently asked questions, on our Coronavirus Resource Hub.

Click here to learn more about the enhanced safety precautions we’re taking to protect you when you’re in our care. Your health and safety are always our top priorities. Don't hesitate to seek help when you need it.

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