Since we all know cloth masks don’t cut it anymorei hope you got good kind—N95, KF94 or similar. But even the best mask won’t protect you if it doesn’t fit you well or if you’re wearing it the wrong way. So here are some tips for getting the best protection from these high-quality masks.
Put it on correctly
The first step is to follow the instructions on your mask. Yes, it should come with instructions – and if it doesn’t, research the type of mask to find out what’s recommended. (You can find instructions for US-approved masks here.)
Respirators have two straps, often adjustable. Hold the mask against your face with one hand while you use the other to position the straps. According to the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):
- The bottom strap should go under your ears and around the back of your neck.
- The top strap should go high on the back of your head, above your ears.
- The straps must not cross.
After putting on the mask, use both hands to press the metal nose clip or wire around the sides of your nose. The idea is to achieve a complete seal against your face, with no air leaking through the spaces around your nose or cheeks.
When removing the mask, do not do hold the front of the mask with your hand (as it could be contaminated). To do remove the bottom strap first, pulling it up and over your head, then the top strap.
In jobs where people are required to wear respirators, workers are often required to do formal fit testing. But if you just put on a mask at home, there are still ways to test if it fits properly.
Start by putting your hands around the mask (it’s a clean mask, the one you just put on). When you breathe in quickly, you should feel the mask closing on your face. And when you exhale, you shouldn’t feel any leaks around the edges.
If you detect leaks around the top of the mask, adjust the nosepiece. And if you feel any around the bottom or the sides, adjust the straps. For a demonstration, see this video of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Keep the edges clear
It’s hard to get a good seal if something is sandwiched between your skin and the edges of the mask. Facial hair is notorious for disrupting respirator seals, so be aware that you won’t get as good of a seal if you have a beard as if you’re clean-shaven.
The same goes for the stray hairs on your head; make sure your hair is pulled back or out of the way. Glasses and jewelry can also interfere with a snug fit, so consider removing your glasses while adjusting your mask and be careful if your earrings, nose rings, or other accessories interfere with the mask seal or straps .
Find your favorite brand
Since different respirators are made slightly differently, you may find that one model or size fits you better than another. If you have trouble with certain brands, shop around and stick with the one that gives you the best seal. And yes, you can reuse the same If you need.