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.
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:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face covering your nose and mouth
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be washed and machine dried without damage or change to shape
Using your mask
To use your mask you must:
- wash your hands immediately before putting it on
- avoid touching or adjusting your mask while wearing it
- be sure not to touch or rub your eyes while you wear it
- don’t share your mask with others
Do not place a mask on:
- children under age 2
- anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
- anyone that cannot remove the mask without help
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
This item was last modified on May 22, 2020