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Do’s and don’ts of wearing a face mask

Consumer Reports Chief Scientific Officer James Dickerson answers commonly asked questions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a statement we have heard for months now: Wear your mask.

Face masks not only slow the spread of COVID-19 but may also protect people wearing them, too.

“The mask, if worn properly and consistently, also helps protect healthy people from catching the disease when they are in close proximity to people who are sick,” said Consumer Reports Chief Scientific Officer James Dickerson.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest guide on the do’s and don’ts of wearing a mask. Here’s an overview:

  • Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Masks should be worn by people ages 2 and older.
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children younger than 2, people who have trouble breathing or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance.
  • Do NOT wear masks intended for health care workers — for example, N95 respirators.
When selecting a mask, there are many choices. Here are some do’s and don’ts.
When selecting a mask, there are many choices. Here are some do’s and don’ts. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

When selecting a mask, the CDC says people should avoid any with exhalation valves or vents (see the graphic above) because those will allow the coronavirus particles to escape.

What about filters inside masks? Are they worth it? Dickerson said: “In general, adding a filter would make it more protective.”

However, Dickerson said, leave the coffee filters at home.

“The typical pore diameter of coffee filters is 20 micrometers, which is too large to provide meaningful filtration capacity for air filtration,” Dickerson said.

RELATED: Masks 101: Everything from mistakes to avoid to how to store your face covering | CONSUMER REPORTS: Your most pressing questions about masks answered by CR’s chief scientist

As for wearing a face shield instead of a face mask, both the CDC and Dickerson agree a face shield can be worn in addition to a face mask, but not on its own.

“If you don’t wear a mask under your face shield, small droplets in the air could be carried up under the shield and land on your nose or mouth,” Dickerson said.

If you’re using a washable mask, you should clean it at the end of the day rather than wearing it unwashed multiple days in a row. Simply run it through the laundry or wash it by hand by soaking it in a solution of ⅓ cup of bleach in a gallon of room-temperature water and subsequently giving it a vigorous scrub. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and to let it dry completely before you wear it.


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