How To Properly Use and Clean A Face Mask When You Can't Socially Distance

Download Audio

Gov. Charlie Baker's executive order requiring just about everyone in the state to wear face masks in public takes effect Wednesday. It applies to people are in stores, on public transit, and outdoors when it's hard to keep a safe social distance.

While many people are already wearing masks, some will be trying them on for the first time. Christina Nester, a registered nurse in Worcester, joined WBUR's All Things Considered to give a crash course in proper face mask protocol.

Interview Highlights

On properly putting on the mask

When you're applying a face mask, the first thing you want to do is to wash or sanitize your hands. And then, taking the mask by the ear loops, apply them over your ears.  Then make sure that you gently pinch the mask around your nose and along the sides of your face, also making sure that you pull the mask down over your chin. Never wear the mask below your nose or below your mouth.

The most important thing is that you do not want to touch the outside of the mask. Once you've applied it, the outside of the mask should be considered a dirty area.

On properly disposing of masks, or cleaning masks for reuse

When you're taking the mask off, you don't want to just crumple it up and put it in your pocket. You want to remove it from the air loops and then to properly throw it in a trash receptacle.

So, if you're using a disposable mask, it really should be one-use wear. But if you have to reuse a disposable mask, the best way to preserve that mask is to take a piece of paper towel [and] set it down on a surface where it will be out of the way. When you remove the mask from over your ears, you want to make sure that you set the outside of the mask down on the paper towel and make sure that the inside of the mask is facing up so that when you go to reuse it, you can pick it up without touching the outside of the mask.

If you're using a cloth mask, you would also do the same thing, but after two to three uses, I would say that you should be laundering that in a gentle cycle or hand-washing, depending on how fragile the mask is.

It is important to wear a face mask. It's not only going to keep yourself safe, but it's also going to keep me safe.

This segment aired on May 5, 2020.


Headshot of Lisa Mullins

Lisa Mullins Host, All Things Considered
Lisa Mullins is the voice of WBUR’s All Things Considered. She anchors the program, conducts interviews and reports from the field.



More from WBUR

Listen Live