Face Masks: When to Wash Them or Throw Away

Face coverings are slowly becoming mandatory in most places in Australia because of the surge of COVID-19 cases. That means that you will have to wear a face mask when in public or in enclosed places where you can’t practice social distancing such as in public transport and shops. 

Wearing a mask reduces the distance travelled by the respiratory droplets that you release when you sneeze, cough, laugh, talk, sing or speak loudly. Thus, the face mask offers some protection when you come across an infected person and especially those who haven’t developed any symptoms.  

You can wear either a store-bought mask or a homemade one. However, medical masks such as N95 respirators and surgical masks are reserved for healthcare professionals to help protect them against risks they are exposed to in the hospitals. 

What are the Correct Ways of Wearing a Face Mask?  

The government and medical experts have continuously instructed citizens to wear their face coverings properly. The primary element is to ensure whatever you’re using completely covers your nose and mouth. Secondly, it should allow you to breathe comfortably; thus, it has to fit snugly on the sides of your face without leaving any gaps. 

Further, it would help if you didn’t lower your mask when speaking because that is when you’re likely to discharge viruses or inhale them when talking to others. 

It would always help if you continued washing your hands when putting it on or taking it off. Avoid touching your mask, nose, mouth and eyes to reduce cross-contamination. That means that you should refrain from touching any part of your face.  

Health guidelines state that children below two years shouldn’t wear a face mask or individuals with respiratory conditions. 

What are the Different Types of Masks that You can Use? 

There are several types of masks in the market. Some are disposable, while others are reusable masks. The following are face masks you will find in stores.  

N95 Respirator: These are masks that are critical for medical first responders and healthcare workers. The general public shouldn’t use them. They’re able to capture larger particles and have a limited supply. They are disposable masks.  

Surgical Masks: These are masks reserved for medical professionals that are handling testing and treating patients. These thin, disposable material masks cover a wide area of your face, including the nose, mouth, cheeks, at times forehead and eyes. You’re most likely to see them with respiratory therapists and doctors. 

Cloth Masks: These are reusable masks mostly made from fabric, thus called essential cloth face masks. They are the standard face mask that you use daily. This version is highly recommended for the general public during coronavirus pandemic. It’s a face mask you can use when going to the gas station, grocery store and other open public space. 

How Should You Handle Disposable Mask? 

These are face masks that are designed for single-use and not multiple times. Thus, avoid reusing these masks. Observe proper hand hygiene before handling the disposable face mask, and once your hands are clean check whether the mask has any tears or holes.   

These masks have the top and bottom part, where the top has a stiff, bendable edge to mould your nose. The bottom part should cover the mouth and extend below the chin. 

The coloured side is the outside part that faces away from you. You should attach the mask to your ears using the ear loops or tie it behind the head using the straps or ties. 

Ensure that the mask is fitting snugly and without any gaps between the face and the fabric. Don’t touch the face mask or your face once you wear it and if you do, wash your hands and always use a hand sanitizer immediately. 

Avoid touching the outer side of your mask when removing it but instead use the loops or the ties. A disposable mask should be thrown in a closed bin and should never be washed or reused. 

How Should You Handle a Reusable Face Mask? 

A reusable mask is made for reuse. However, it would help if you washed it after every use. There are different views of how often you should wash your mask. While others feel that you should clean it regularly, it would be wise to wash it at least once every day depending on how often you use it.  

Take, for example, when you wear your mask to an occasional trip to the supermarket and pharmacy, that mask can have a regular or weekly wash. On the other hand, a mask that is used frequently should be washed after every use, mainly when you work or travel to crowded places or when they get soiled. 

When you remove your reusable face covering you should store it in a plastic bag or envelope until the next opportunity to wear or wash it. It can be either machine-washed or hand-washed with other laundry and regular detergent. Ensure that your cloth mask is completely dry before wearing it. 

What Else Can You Use as a Face Covering?  

You might be thinking about what else you can use if you don’t have an actual mask. A simple scarf or bandana can be used as a face covering when your mask gets soiled or moist when you haven’t finished running your errands.  

Alternatively, you can make your homemade face-covering using a cotton material or T-shirt. Sewing two sheets of chiffon made from spandex and polyester and a tightly woven cotton can make a mask that filters 80-99 % particles. You can also use natural silk and flannel, combined with tightly woven cotton. 

Takeaway  

There are different types of face masks. Some are disposable or a single-use mask, while others are reusable and washable. Clean your mask after every use or depending on how frequently you use your mask. 

You can make your mask at home using tightly woven cotton and a chiffon or silk material. Alternatively, you can purchase your mask from stores such as Aussie Defender.  

The reusable 3-ply fabric mask with filter pocket is Victorian DHHS complaint made from water-resistant polyester and water-absorbing cotton as recommended by medical experts. You can shop yours now.   

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