How well does my cloth face mask protect me from COVID-19?
In general, we wear cloth face masks because they protect other people from getting COVID-19 from us, in case we have it and don't know.
Cloth face masks work best if they have several layers of woven fabric, we have clean hands, and we stay at least six feet away from other people.
The Do's and Dont's of Cloth Face Coverings
Although there is currently no statewide requirement to wear face coverings, Public Health - Seattle & King County recently directed all residents to King County to wear cloth face coverings in public places. This seems like a good time to review the Do's and Don'ts of wearing cloth face coverings.
DO cover your face with a couple layers of cloth while in public places.
DO wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you put your face mask on and after you take it off.
DO wash your cloth face covering in a washing machine after a day's use.
DO take a cloth face covering with you if you are hiking or visiting a park. Although you do not need to wear one outside, you may find that you need to come within 6 feet of someone else on a trail. At that point, put your cloth face covering on, say hello, and carry on.
DON'T wear surgical-grade masks or N95 respirators. We need to reserve those for health care and other frontline workers.
DON'T think that wearing cloth masks means we can gather in large groups of people. At best, a cloth face mask covering is just one added level of precaution. It doesn't really help unless we are also washing our hands, staying home when we are sick, and practicing physical distancing.
DON'T wear a cloth face mask covering while exercising outdoors. It's not dangerous, just annoying and not necessary.
DON'T touch your cloth face covering after you put it on. Try not to touch your face at all.
DON'T put a cloth face mask on a child under the age of 2, or on a person with a disability that keeps them from being able to remove it.
DON'T worry that a cloth face covering might restrict your oxygen. It's not airtight. If you ever feel like you're having trouble breathing, remove the cloth face covering and sit down. If the feeling persists, call 911.
How to Wear a Cloth Face Covering
Cloth face coverings should...
Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
Be secured with ties or ear loops
Include multiple layers of fabric
Allow for breathing without restriction
Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.
CDC on Homemade Cloth Face Coverings
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g, grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community - based transmission.
CDC also advises the use of simply cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidelines.
Cloth Face Covering FAQs
Should cloth face coverings be washed or otherwise cleaned regularly? How regularly? Yes. they should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use.
How does one safely sterilize/clean a cloth face covering? A washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering.
How does one safely remove a used cloth face covering? Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing.
Sew and No Sew Instructions
Sewn Cloth Face Covering
1. Cut out two 10-by-6-inch rectangles of cotton fabric. Use tightly woven cotton, such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets. T-shirt fabric will work in a pinch. Stack the two rectangles; you will sew the mask as if it was a single piece of fabric.
Quick Cut T-shirt Face Covering (no sew method)
Bandana Face Covering (no sew method)