Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Masks are an additional step to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with every day preventive actions and social distancing in public settings.
People should wear masks in public settings, like on public and mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people.
Masks should not be worn by children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Do not use a mask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.
Correctly wear your mask
- Wash your hands before putting on your mask.
- Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
- Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face.
- Make sure you can breathe easily.
- CDC does not recommend use of masks or cloth masks for source control if they have an exhalation valve or vent.
Wear a mask to protect others
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect others in case you’re infected with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms.
- Wear a mask in public settings when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when it may be difficult for you to stay six feet apart.
- Wear a mask correctly for maximum protection.
- Don’t put the mask around your neck or up on your forehead.
- Don’t touch the mask, and, if you do, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to disinfect.
Follow everyday health habits
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds each time.
- Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Take off your mask carefully, when you’re home
- Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops.
- Handle only by the ear loops or ties.
- Fold outside corners together.
- Place mask in the washing machine (learn more about how to wash masks).
- Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing.
How to store and wash masks
Store your cloth mask properly and wash it regularly to keep it clean. Consider having more than one mask on hand so that you can easily replace a dirty mask with a clean one. Make sure to remove your mask correctly and wash your hands after touching a used mask.
Store your mask
- Store wet or dirty masks in a plastic bag
If your mask is wet or dirty from sweat, saliva, make-up or other liquids or substances, keep it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it. Wash wet or dirty masks as soon as possible to prevent them from becoming moldy. Wet masks can be hard to breathe through and are less effective than dry masks.
- Store masks that are not wet or dirty in a paper bag
You can store your mask temporarily to reuse later. Remove your mask correctly and wash your hands after touching a used mask. Keep it in a dry, breathable bag (like a paper or mesh fabric bag) to keep it clean between uses. When reusing your mask, keep the same side facing out.
If you are taking off your mask to eat or drink outside of your home, you can place it somewhere safe to keep it clean, such as your pocket, purse, or paper bag. Make sure to wash or sanitize your hands after removing your mask. After eating, put the mask back on with the same side facing out. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands again after putting your mask back on.
mask being placed in paper bag
Recommendations for washing masks
Wash your cloth mask whenever it gets dirty or at least daily. If you have a disposable face mask, throw it away after wearing it once.
Using a washing machine
- Include your mask with your regular laundry.
- Use regular laundry detergent and the appropriate settings according to the fabric label.
- Wash your mask with tap water and laundry detergent or soap.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove detergent or soap.
Recommendations for drying masks
- Dry your mask completely in a warm or hot dryer.
- Hang your mask in direct sunlight to dry completely. If you cannot hang it in direct sunlight, hang or lay it flat and let it dry completely.