Non-medical masks

Last modified: 
12/10/2020 - 11:21

To protect yourself and others, wear a non-medical mask or face covering when:

  • you're in public and you might come into close contact with others
  • you're in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household

You can save lives by getting into the habit of wearing a non-medical mask when you cannot consistently maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from others.

June 2020 study revealed that New York and Italy prevented 66,000 (April 17 – May 9) and 78,000 (April 6 – May 9) COVID-19 infections respectively by making people wear face masks in public places.

Proper material, structure and fit

Well-designed and well-fitting masks or face coverings can prevent the spread of your infectious respiratory droplets. They may also help protect you from the infectious respiratory droplets of others.

How well a mask or face covering works depends on the materials used, how the mask is made, and most importantly, how well it fits.

A mask or face covering can be homemade or purchased, and should:

  • be made of at least 3 layers
    • 2 layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
    • the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping
  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • maintain its shape after washing and drying

Filters

Filters add an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 by trapping small infectious particles. Consider wearing a mask that includes a filter or filter material as one of its layers, such as:

  • non-woven polypropylene fabric, which can be found as:
    • a craft fabric
    • the non-woven fabric that's used to make some reusable shopping bags
  • a disposable filter inserted into a pocket on the mask

Check out how to make your own face covering with a filter.

Reusable masks with a non-woven filter layer should be washed daily, and can be washed multiple times. Disposable filters should be changed daily or as directed by the manufacturer.

Stigma and those who can't wear masks

Some people may not be able to wear a mask or face covering. Be kind rather than making assumptions about those you see without them. For those unable to wear one, singling them out in public can be socially isolating and lead to anxiety.

Masks aren't recommended for:

  • people who suffer from illnesses or disabilities that make it difficult to put on or take off a mask
  • those who have difficulty breathing
  • children under the age of 2
  • those who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

Frequently Asked Questions

Resources