Guidance for wearing non-medical masks (COVID-19)

Medical masks, including surgical masks and N95 respirators, are in short supply and need to be kept for health-care settings.

Public health agencies recommend that you wear a non-medical mask (for example, a homemade cloth mask or face covering) as an added step to protect others when physical distancing is challenging or not possible – even if you have no symptoms of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). But, remember that wearing a non-medical mask has not been proven to protect the person wearing it. It protects other people from your germs.

What does a non-medical mask do?

A mask acts as a barrier. It reduces the chance of spreading respiratory droplets to others and prevents droplets from landing on surfaces when you cough or sneeze.

Wearing a non-medical mask in public or other settings is not a replacement for proven measures such as handwashing, physical distancing, and limiting non-essential travel.

When to wear a non-medical mask

The Government of Canada suggests that you wear a non-medical mask when you must go out in public and can’t keep a safe distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others (for example, when grocery shopping or using public transit).

How to use a non-medical mask safely

Non-medical or cloth masks have limits and you need to use them safely.

Your mask should:

This visual shows a person properly wearing a homemade cloth mask. Two elastics are attached to both ends of the mask that can be looped over the ears to keep it in place. Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth completely.

This visual shows the side profile a person properly wearing a homemade cloth mask. An elastic is attached at the end of the mask and is looped around the ear. The mask covers the nose and mouth completely.

Using your mask

To use your mask you must:

Do not place a mask on:

Removing your mask

Masks can become contaminated on the outside or when touched by hands.

To remove your mask safely you must:

Step 1: Be very careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing your mask.

Step 2: Wash your hands immediately after your remove it.

Step 3: Place your used mask directly into the washing machine.

Step 4: Wash your mask with other items using a hot cycle, and then dry it thoroughly. If you can’t wash your mask, throw it in the garbage right away.

Learn more about preventing the spread of COVID-19, including how to wash cloth masks and safely dispose of non-medical masks on Canada.ca/coronavirus (Government of Canada).

Guidance for caregivers and health care providers

Learn more about our specific instructions for caregivers and guidance for health care providers.


This item was last modified on May 22, 2020