Guidance on safe use of face coverings from the Department of Health
A cloth face covering is a material you wear that covers the nose and mouth. Wearing a cloth face covering in public may reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the community. It may help to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from people infected with COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Cloth face coverings may help to stop people who are not aware they have the virus from spreading it.
You may choose to wear a cloth face covering:
- when staying 2 metres apart from people is difficult – for example on public transport
- in an enclosed space with other people
Cloth face coverings are made from materials such as cotton, silk, or linen.
Cloth face coverings are not suitable for children under the age of 13 and anyone who:
- has trouble breathing
- is unconscious or incapacitated
- is unable to remove it without help
- has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering
Do not criticise or judge people who are not able to wear a face covering.
How to wear one
A cloth face covering should cover the nose and go under the chin and:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include at least 2 layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
How to wash one
Wash daily in a hot wash over 60 degrees with detergent.
If using a washing machine, you should be able to wash and machine dry it without damage or change to shape.
You do not need to sterilise cloth face coverings. Wash it in a washing machine or by hand as you would any other item of clothing.
Wash hands before and after use.
How to use a cloth face covering properly
- clean your hands properly before you put it on
- practice using it so you are comfortable putting it on and taking it off
- make sure it is made from a fabric you are comfortable wearing
- cover your mouth and nose with it and make sure there are no gaps between your cloth face covering
- tie it securely
- carry unused masks in a sealable clean waterproof bag (for example, a ziplock bag)
- carry a second similar type bag to put used masks in
- touch a mask or face covering while wearing it – if you do, clean your hands properly
- use a damp or wet medical mask or reuse a medical mask
- share masks
- do not lower your mask to speak, eat and smoke or vape – if you need to uncover your nose or mouth take the mask off and put it in the bag for used masks
- do not discard masks in public places
To take it off properly:
- remove it from behind – do not touch the front of the mask
- do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
- clean your hands properly
- put disposable masks in a bin straight away
Medical face masks
Medical masks (surgical and respirator) are for healthcare workers. Some workers in specific jobs also use them. They are vital supplies and are not intended for use by the public in the community. We want to try and make sure that medical face masks are kept for health care workers.
- Do not wear disposable gloves instead of washing your hands.
- The virus gets on them in the same way it gets on your hands. Also, your hands can get contaminated when you take them off.
- Disposable gloves are worn in medical settings. They are not as effective in daily life.
- Wearing disposable gloves can give you a false sense of security.
- sneeze or cough into the gloves – this creates a new surface for the virus to live on
- contaminate yourself when taking off the gloves or touching surfaces
- not wash your hands as often as you need to and touch your face with contaminated gloves