How to wear a face mask properly

23rd April 2020

Due to current COVID-19 outbreak, plenty of people are going out and buying face masks to attempt to protect themselves from infection. However, face mask wearing is not common practice in the Western world and so for many people, it will be their first time using them. Because it’s important they’re used properly, we’ve got some helpful instructions for you.

How to put on a face mask

First things first, wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser gel to ensure your hands are clean before touching the face mask. You should inspect the mask before wearing it to ensure it’s not damaged or broken, but always pick it up by the fastenings, rather than the mask itself (whether that be headbands, ear loops or ties).

Once you’re satisfied that the mask is not damaged, you should work out which way up it goes. If it’s a surgical mask that you’re using, the bendable edge will be the top and the coloured side will be the front (with the white side designed to touch your face). 

If it’s a respirator mask that you’re using (like an FFP2/N95 or FFP3 mask) then the way it fits should be a little more obvious as they are either folded or moulded so it’s clearer how it fits on your face. Again though, ensure the bendable section sits on your nose.

Bring the mask up to your face and secure it. For ear loops, simply hang these over the tops of your ears. For headbands, loop these over your head and adjust so that they sit comfortably. For ties, secure with a bow.

Pinch the stiff section across your nose until it moulds comfortably. Make sure your mask is fitting comfortably and covering your nose and mouth (adjust if necessary). Wash your hands again to complete the fighting of the mask.

While wearing the face mask

Once you’ve successfully fitted your face mask, it’s important that you don’t touch it or the rest of your face. Germs can be spread through touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth so face masks can act as a good reminder not to do this.

However, you should remember that face masks don’t guarantee complete protection from coronavirus so other good hygiene practises must still be put into action (such as handwashing and social distancing).

How to remove a face mask

This is potentially the most important step to do correctly. Once you’re ready to remove your face mask, wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser gel. Never touch the front of your face mask as this is the part that’s susceptible to contamination.

Only touch your mask by the fastening such as ties, headbands or ear loops and once you’ve released them, lift the mask away from your face to remove. Again, don’t touch the outside of the mask as it could be contaminated from others. And don’t touch the inside of the mask as it could be contaminated by you (and then transferred to others).

If your face mask is single-use only then dispose of it correctly. If you have a respirator mask and plan to re-use it then see our blog post on how to clean and look after your face mask. Once again, when these steps have been completed, wash your hands or use a sanitiser gel.