Face masks might be the key to reopening much of the global economy. Right now many shops and services are still shuttered because of fears about spreading the novel coronavirus, and that’s why governments across the world are encouraging people to don homemade cloth masks.
Homemade cloth masks and even surgical masks are perfectly safe to wear. That’s why they are recommended for people who have to wear them all day long – respirator masks such as N95 masks are not meant to be worn for extended periods and that’s why they are recommended to only be used by medical professionals and first responders.
Cloth masks aren’t reliable for medical use, but they can be effective in preventing the spread of droplets from coughs and sneezes, thus lessening the infection rate for COVID-19. Part of the reason there has been so much differing information about whether people should wear masks or not has to do with panic-buying and curbing misinformation.
Early on most health organizations recommended against people wearing masks at all, but the main reason for that was that they didn’t want everyone buying up surgical and N95 masks and thus preventing them from reaching medical providers.
Another reason was that organizations needed time to educate the public about the proper use of masks, including when to wear one, how to put it on and take it off properly, sanitation, and more.
Putting on and taking off a face mask sounds easy, but you have to understand cross-contamination to be able to do it safely. Basically, you should consider your mask and hands contaminated and treat them as such.
- Wash your hands before putting your clean mask on your face
- Put your mask on your face and adjust it to stay put and then don’t touch it again until it’s time to take it off
- Wear your mask until it becomes wet or soiled when you are in a public place like a grocery store
- When you exit the public place, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
- After your hands are clean, take off your mask
- Put your soiled mask in a bag if possible
- Wash your hands again after touching your soiled mask
- Wash your mask every time you use it using the hottest possible water
- If you can’t wash your mask, boil it to sanitize
Ignoring these steps means you are exposing yourself to unnecessary cross-contamination. Your hands touch surfaces that could be contaminated, and while the risk is minimal it’s important to wash your hands frequently to avoid contamination.
Your mask contains not only your germs, but also germs from the other side, so when you touch it you are contaminating yourself. Your mask should cover your nose and mouth and stay there until you are back to the safety of your home or personal vehicle.
Making your own mask is really simple and just about anyone can do it with materials you already have at home. Bandanas, hair ties, and even t-shirts can be used to make simple, washable face masks.
Learn more about using face masks below.