How to wear a cloth face mask safely and effectively

As nonessential employees re-enter the workplace as part of Colorado's Safer at Home phase of sheltering in place, face masks are becoming an integral tool in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, research shows that people who have no symptoms can spread COVID-19. Wearing a non-medical face mask helps minimize the spread of the virus. The department recommends that everyone wear a mask when in public.

Most of us aren't used to wearing masks, so it's normal to have questions. Let's dive into the answers to some key questions about proper mask protocol.

Where can I get a cloth face mask? How can I make one?

Unless you're front-line personnel, a DIY cloth mask is probably all you need. That helps reserve N95 respirators for healthcare workers and first responders.

Many employers are providing masks, if possible; if yours doesn't, you can consider making your own.

The Colorado Mask Project has instructions and patterns. It recommends that masks include the following:

  • Two layers of closed-weave fabric. Studies find that cotton and nylon are the best fabric choices.
  • Pocket for removable filter. Paper towels, shop towels and coffee filters all work.
  • Flexible nose clip, which can be fashioned from pipe cleaners.
  • Comfortable and secure mask ties, such as bias tape, elastic, or even T-shirt fabric.

What are some best practices for safely putting on and taking off a face mask?

A face mask is protective only if you handle and wear it correctly. Follow these best practices for the best results:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water both before and after handling your mask.
  • Make sure your face mask doesn't have tears, missing ties, or other defects before wearing.
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth while putting your mask on and taking it off.
  • Make sure it fits securely to cover your mouth and nose, with the bottom edge under your chin.
  • Avoid touching your mask during wear.
  • When taking your mask off, assume it's contaminated and use only the straps around the ears to remove it.
  • Remember to maintain recommended physical distance from others, even while wearing a face mask.
  • Cloth face masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious,incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

How should I care for my face mask?

Sanitation is the name of the game. Fortunately, cloth face masks are easy to take care of. Follow these guidelines:

  • When taking off your mask, immediately drop it in a bucket of soapy water.
  • If you're only removing the mask temporarily, set it on a piece of paper or put it in a zip-top bag with the outer surface of the mask folded inward and against itself.
  • Wash your mask frequently in a washing machine. Dry it on high heat.

How can I keep my sunglasses, goggles or other eye-coverings from fogging up?

If your eyewear gets foggy when you’re wearing a mask, try these tricks:

  • Wash lenses with soapy water, then allow them to air-dry.
  • Make sure the top of your mask is tighter and the bottom looser to keep moist air from heading up.
  • Use a folded piece of tissue around the top of the face mask as a barrier against your breath.
  • Use a commercial anti-fogging solution.

As we enter our new normal, wearing a mask is a small price to pay for increased health and safety. So, don your new accessory with fashion and pride.

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