Face masks: Everything you need to know about buying, washing, replacing and wearing one.
Everything you need to know about making and wearing masks better to help prevent getting and spreading coronavirus.
Face masks are now a part of our daily lives.
Ever since guidance from Gov. Tom Wolf and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to cover our face to help keep ourselves (and others) safe, we’ve jury-rigged all kinds of face coverings, from using a scarf, to tying a bandanna, to sewing ourselves something fancy (and, if we can’t sew, using safety pins or any other MacGyvered attachments to keep the fabric from falling apart).
That was fine at first. But now as the pandemic stretches into months, it’s a good time to pause and find some ways to make masks work better and be more comfortable.
We’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to do it better. Here’s everything you need to know about wearing a mask right now.
» READ MORE: Your guide to going outside (safely) right now)
After all, these aren’t just an accessory: they’re protection. Wearing them properly, alongside observing other safety practices like staying at least 6 feet away from people and being diligent about washing our hands, can mean not getting sick, and not getting others sick.
Here’s what you need to know.
» ASK US: Do you have a question about the coronavirus and how it affects your health, work and life? Ask our reporters
Are you wearing it wrong?
Maybe. There are a lot of ways to get it wrong: wearing it under your nose, taking a break and wearing it under your chin, wearing it if it’s dirty, touching the front of it while you’re wearing it. Jonathan Lai breaks down all the things you should stop doing right now.
» READ MORE: Stop wearing your mask wrong
If you need to replace one
Are you still wearing the same masks you bought in the spring? When is it time to toss one? The exact timeline of when you need to replace a mask depends on the the mask, along with other factors like how much you’re washing it, and how often you’re taking it on and off. But Grace Dickinson breaks down when it’s time to trash one.
» READ MORE: You should probably replace some of your fabric face masks
If you exercise outdoors
It’s not totally necessary to wear a mask outside when you exercise, if you’re sure you can stay away from others. But as more people go for fresh air and exercise, it’s not a bad idea to have one. Exercising comfortably in a mask likely means altering your activities (as masks can make it harder to breathe), and finding one that’s comfortable. A headband to help catch sweat doesn’t hurt, either. Grace Dickinson gives a rundown of everything you need to know.
» READ MORE: Should I wear a mask while running and exercising outside?
If you have little kids
If you have kids who are older than 2, it’s recommended that they wear a mask when they’re outside the house and going to be in spaces where it’s difficult to social distance. But how do you actually get them to wear one, wear it properly, and keep it on? It’s a challenge. But there are real tips that can make it easier. Among them: Turn it into a game, practice at home, and make sure you’ve got the right size and fit. Grace Dickinson has more on making this new piece of parenting easier.
» READ MORE: Should my kid wear a face mask? What parents need to know.
If you wear glasses
We get it. It sucks. Wearing glasses and a mask is recipe for foggy glasses. But there are things you can do to be able to wear a mask and also see. Nick Vadala has found a number of solutions, including treating your glasses with soap, altering your mask so that your moist breath doesn’t flow through the top, and more.
» READ MORE: How to wear a mask and not fog up your glasses
If you wear makeup
A lot of us aren’t wearing makeup right now, but if you are, don’t worry: it doesn’t affect the effectiveness of your mask. But it can clog your pores, because the skin under your mask doesn’t breathe as well, which can lead to breakouts. If you want to wear makeup, Elizabeth Wellington has some tips about how to do that right now.
» READ MORE: Is my mask less effective if I wear makeup?
If you want to know how to wash them
You do need to clean and disinfect your mask. How? How often? Nick Vadala has found the answers: Wash it after every use, in hot water, with your regular laundry. Dry it on high heat, too. Read the full piece for more about what you need to know about keeping your fabric face masks clean.
» READ MORE: How to clean your face mask to help prevent getting and spreading the coronavirus
If you have a beard. Do you have to shave it?
The short answer: no. You can keep your quarantine beard. You should wear a mask snug to your face, but it doesn’t need a tight seal the way that N95 and respirators do. Nick Vadala dug into the science about beards, coronavirus and masks here.
» READ MORE: Should I shave my beard to keep from getting the coronavirus?
If you need to make one
Check out Jonathan Lai’s printable template for a simple mask, with step-by-step instructions. We have a video that shows how, too.
» READ MORE: Use our simple template to make a face mask at home: A step-by-step guide
If you need to buy one
I can’t sew. Don’t worry. Brandon T. Harden has a roundup of local designers who are making very pretty face masks. They’re not expensive, and they help support local businesses right now.
» READ MORE: Can’t sew? Buy one of these stylish face masks instead
If you want to know what they are (and aren’t) good for
What do masks ... do? What don’t they do? How effective are they? If you have more questions about masks and the virus, Nick Vadala has dug into the science on masks.