How To Wear A Face Mask

Maximus Escouri

Scientific evidence suggests that wearing a face mask can help prevent COVID-19 spread. Cloth coverings combined with social distancing and hygiene can slow the spread of the virus. Do you know that if you don’t wear your mask correctly, you are exposing yourself to more danger?

In this special edition on face masks, we discuss all the key issues relating to face masks including the different types of masks and what protection each offers, who should be wearing a mask and how to wear a face mask correctly.  

face mask

Types of face masks

Surgical masks (Also known as medical masks)

  • Loose-fitting

  • Disposable

  • Physical barrier

  • Protects the nose and mouth from droplets and sprays

  • Reduces exposure to saliva and respiratory secretions

  • Filters out large particles in the air (e.g. air pollutants)

N95 masks

  • Filters large and small particles

  • Designed to block out 95% of small particles

  • Offers more protection than surgical masks

  • Some N95 masks have one-way valves for easier breathing

  • Healthcare professionals need to past a fit test to confirm a proper seal

  • The Australian government does not advise wearing N95 or P2 masks outside the healthcare environment

cloth mask

Cloth masks

  • Traps droplets when a person coughs, sneezes or talks

  • Can protect others from asymptomatic people

  • Is an adequate substitute if other masks are not available

  • Cloth masks must have at least three layers of fabric to be effective

Who should wear a mask?

So far, the NSW Government has not made mask-wearing mandatory. But masks are highly recommended if you cannot practise social distancing when you are out.  

In Victoria where masks wearing is now compulsory in public, there are some exemptions including:

  • Infants and young children under the age of 12

  • People who are doing a strenuous exercise (jogging, running and so forth)

  • People with disabilities

  • People who cannot safely remove a mask themselves

When should you wear a mask?

For now, face masks are not mandatory in NSW. Please read the NSW Government’s advice on mask wearing as the situation can easily change.

The health department is advising that all individuals wear a face covering when they are outside and cannot socially distance. A safe social distance is 1.5 metres (or two arms’ length. One arm’s length is approximately 1 metre). 

Some situations that you may want to wear a mask:

  • Travelling by public transport

  • Walking in a crowded park where there are many people exercising

  • Shopping for grocery or other essential goods

  • Working away from the home

  • Visiting your healthcare provider (doctor, dentist, etc)

As the situation is volatile, we advise parents to limit their daily movements to essential services only. If you don’t need that haircut, don’t book an appointment.   Home cooking with the kids is not just fun, it could be safer. 

How to wear a face mask correctly

We followed the Department of Health & Human Services to give you the best advice on how to wear a face mask correctly.

Surgical mask:

  • Surgical masks are disposable and should not be recycled

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before you put your mask on

  • If using a hand sanitiser, make sure it has at least 60% alcohol

  • Check for wear and tear before you put your mask on (e.g. tears in the fabric or loosened ear loops)

  • The coloured (blue) side of the mask faces outwards

  • The metallic white strip (the white strip that feels mouldable) should be firmly on the bridge of your nose


  • Surgical masks can come in three shapes:

Ear loops:


  • Loop it over your ears.

  • You can tie a small knot at the bottom of each loop (i.e. the end nearest to the mask) or simply loop each ear loop into a figure eight (like this ∞) to create a better fit


  • Hold the mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings securely in a bow near the nape of your neck.

Dual elastic bands:

  • Pull the bottom band over your head and position it against the nape of your neck. Pull the top band over your head and position it against the crown of your head

  • Gently pinch and press the metallic strip against your nose to seal the mask in place

  • Pull the mask over your mouth and down to your chin. The mask should cover your nose and mouth

  • Do not touch your mask or your face once you have put it on

Cloth mask:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before you put your mask on

  • If using a hand sanitiser, make sure it has at least 60% alcohol

  • A cloth mask should fit securely around the face and secured by ties at the back of your head or ear loops

  • If you are using a mask with ear loops, you can use a clip or tie the ends to get a better fit

  • Your cloth mask should not have any holes or a valve because it can result in you breathing out the virus and spreading it to others (if you have the virus)

  • Do not touch your mask or your face once you have put it on

How to remove a mask safely

how to remove face mask

Taking out a mask correctly is as important as putting it on. Here are some tips on how to remove your face mask safely:

  • Wash and disinfect your hands before you remove the mask

  • Don’t touch any part of the mask when you are removing it

  • Carefully unloop the mask with your fingers

  • Throw used surgical masks directly into the bin

  • Put washable cloth masks directly into the washing machine

  • Don’t reuse a cloth mask unless you have washed it

  • Wash and disinfect your hands after removing your mask

Watch how to wear a mask correctly video below:

Mask wearing precautions

Here are some mask-wearing precautions that can be useful to you:

  • Do not put a mask on someone who has difficulty breathing or someone who cannot remove the mask themselves

  • Do not put a mask on an infant or a toddler. Children under 12 years of age are not required to wear a mask

  • A mask does not mean you don’t need to social distance or practise good hygiene. All three need to work together to beat the virus

Tips about mask-wearing

Everyone is different. You will need to practise until you find a fit that is comfortable for you. Here are some tips that can make mask-wearing more comfortable:

  • Try wearing the mask at home over short periods before you venture outdoors

  • Try a few different fits until you find the one that is most comfortable for you

  • Do not put a mask on an infant or a toddler. Children under 12 years of age are not required to wear a mask at this stage

  • To prevent glasses from fogging up try some of these measures:

    • Washing your glasses with soap and water before putting on your mask

    • Looping a figure ‘eight’ or tying a small knot at the end of each ear loop to create a snug fit

    • Doubling over the metallic strip to create a better seal

    • If you cannot get your hands on a mask, use a bandanna, a scarf, or a buff. Any face covering is better than no coverage when you are out in public

    • If you are stressed about wearing a mask, speak to your GP

How often do I need to wash my cloth mask?

Surgical masks are meant for single use only. If you are outdoors for a long period, bring a spare mask with you (in a Ziplock bag to prevent contamination) so you can replace your surgical mask if it becomes too saturated with moisture.

Cloth masks should be washed every day. Keep one or two spare masks with you at home so you can wear a clean mask every time you are out of the house. Clean masks should be stored in a Ziplock bag when you are taking it out as a spare. That way, you will not contaminate the mask.

handmade masks hero

How do I wash my cloth mask?

Use your washing machine hot cycle with washing detergent. You can hand wash your mask with warm water and plenty of soap. Hang your mask to dry in the sunlight. On rainy days, put your mask into the dryer. You can also lay the mask flat on the table underneath your heater to dry.

Never wear a mask that is wet because it will not protect you.

When do I need to replace my cloth mask?

Your cloth mask is not going to last forever. The more you use it, the sooner it will wear out.  Replace your cloth mask when:

  • Your cloth mask does not fit snugly on your face (for example, when you can feel your breath coming out of the sides of the mask)

  • Your cloth mask keeps falling off or sliding down

  • There are visible holes and tears in your mask

  • You find yourself adjusting the mask more often

Can I remove my mask to talk to others?

The simple answer is ‘NO’. 

Can I remove my mask to eat or drink?

You can briefly remove your mask if you need a drink or if you need to eat. Carry a pocket-size hand sanitiser in your pocket. Sanitise your hands before and after every time you touch your mask. Take special care not to touch the exterior of the mask when you are removing it to eat or drink. Sanitise your hands after you have eaten or drank before you put your mask back on. 

Avoid any temptation to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have to. Use a tissue you can throw away to blow your nose, wipe your eyes or mouth – not a handkerchief.

Do I need to wear a mask when I am driving?

mask while driving

Not if you are in the car with your kids or family. You will need to wear a mask in the car if you have a passenger (or passengers) who do not live with you.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE FOR PARENTS: TopKidz is continuing classes with extra COVID-SAFE measures.  You can still use your NSW Creative and NSW Active Vouchers if you have not done so this year. 


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