Cloth face masks are among the things that are slowly becoming part of our daily essentials as we continue to deal with a global pandemic. Good-quality cloth masks are reusable, washable, and comfortable to wear. If properly worn and taken care of, they will last the wearer a long time. There are also a lot of styles available, so it’s possible for you to incorporate a cloth mask into your everyday outfit. You have the option to choose the kind that stands out—or the kind that’s more understated. The latter could put you, as well as others around you, more at ease.
That fact remains, however, that face masks are more than just daily apparel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends mask-wearing as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of COVID-19. A face mask can slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others because it traps most of the respiratory droplets released by the wearer. That means that even those who don’t know they have the virus won’t transmit it as easily to others.
Healthcare providers and others in healthcare settings get the best protection out of surgical masks and respirators like N95 masks. For the general public, however, it is enough to wear cloth masks, although people should be reminded that masks are most efficient at preventing the spread of diseases when everyone wears them.
To get the best out of these “new normal” essentials, here are some tips for wearing and maintaining your own set of cloth masks.
Find the Right Face Mask to Wear
First, it’s important to choose the right face mask for your application. You’ll want the kind that fits snugly over your face and doesn’t loosen easily. At the same time, you’ll want it to be comfortable enough for you to wear for prolonged periods.
Get a cloth mask that’s made of quality breathable material. There are different styles you can choose from, from the type with ear loops to the type that slips securely over your neck. You can even find cloth masks in different colors and designs. Pick those that go naturally with your wardrobe so that you can look both stylish and discreet when you wear them.
Keep Your Nose and Mouth Covered
Next, be aware of the parts of your face that the face mask is meant to cover. When you’re out in public, both your nose and mouth should be completely covered by the mask. That’s what will trap droplets from being released into the air when you cough or sneeze.
Make sure the mask covers your nostrils and lips, and that the bottom area covers your chin. Don’t wear it just under your nostrils, over your chin, up on your forehead, or around your neck.
Don’t Touch the Mask’s Surface with Your Hands
Another thing to be aware of is that you shouldn’t touch your mask when you’re wearing it. If you accidentally do so, then you should immediately wash your hands or apply hand sanitizer afterwards.
The safest way to remove or adjust the mask is by avoiding the area that covers the mouth and nose. Do so carefully by touching the mask’s ear loop or back area.
Keep a Spare in Case Your Mask Gets Dirty or Wet
When you’re outside, there’s a chance that your mask will get dirty or wet from the rain. It’s always good to keep a spare in your bag or in your car in case this happens.
If your mask gets soiled, carefully remove it and store it in a sealable bag until it’s time to wash it. Then, you can slip on your spare mask, and you’ll be ready to go.
Wash Properly After Every Use
Cloth face masks should be washed and dried after every use. You can either hand-wash the face mask or launder it in a washing machine with your other clothing items. If you choose to do the latter, it’s recommended you wash the mask on the hot water setting and tumble-dry it. If you’re sensitive to perfumes or other strong smells, you can opt to use non-scented laundry detergent while laundering your cloth mask.
After every wash, inspect your face mask to see if there are any rips or tears on the surface. Check the elastic portion as well to make sure it’s not overly stretched. If there’s any damage to the mask, that’s when you should consider replacing it. Luckily, you won’t have to do so very often if you buy durable cloth masks for yourself and your family members.
Use in Addition to Proper Hand Hygiene and Social Distancing
Lastly, don’t forget that mask-wearing isn’t a replacement measure for the two other rules of protecting your community from COVID-19: hand hygiene and social distancing. Just because you’re wearing a mask doesn’t mean you should stop observing social distancing or wash your hands less often.
Mask-wearing is meant to complement social distancing and proper hand hygiene as the most thorough measures for slowing COVID-19 transmission. So, be considerate of your wellbeing—and that of others around you—by wearing a mask, keeping your hands clean, and keeping a safe distance.
The practice of wearing a cloth mask works best if it’s done by as many people as possible in a public setting. The more people there are in your community who are comfortable wearing masks, the safer it will be for all of you. Stay safe, comfy, stylish, and at ease when you’re wearing your cloth mask, and hopefully others will follow suit!
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