Frequently asked Questions
Face masks must be designed or made to be worn over the mouth and nose and should fit securely around your face to provide protection against infection.
The best face mask is a single-use surgical mask that you can buy at a chemist or pharmacy. If you are unable to get a surgical mask, any other single-use paper or cloth masks are fine to use. The most effective cloth masks are made up of at least three layers of fabric. A scarf or bandana is not considered an appropriate face mask.
How often to change your face mask
- Surgical and paper masks should only be used once.
- If you choose to use a cloth mask, you can wash and re-use them many times. It is a good idea to have at least two, so you will always have a clean one available.
- Don’t re-use the same mask to go home that you used on the trip to a location.
- Throw used surgical masks in the bin or store used cloth masks in a plastic bag until you can wash them.
- Re-using a cloth mask without washing it is risky, because it can become contaminated or may not be as effective in protecting you. For each new situation put on a clean mask.
- Carry your clean masks in a plastic or paper bag to keep them clean.
Washing a reusable cloth face mask
- Cloth masks should be washed after every use.
- They can be washed in the washing machine with other clothes, or hand washed using soap and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth.
- Dry the cloth mask in the clothes dryer or in fresh air before you re-use it.
- Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser (made up of over 60% alcohol or 70% isopropanol) after handling used face masks.
For face masks to be effective, they must be worn properly. An incorrectly-used face mask can contribute to spread of the virus.
To use face masks safely:
- Keep your masks in a plastic bag (preferably a zip-lock bag) until you need to use them.
- Before putting your mask on, wash your hands all over with soap and water (including your fingertips), rinse and dry well. Alternatively, use alcohol-based hand rub.
- Make sure the mask is the right side out. The coloured side is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.
- Cover your mouth and nose with the mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Tie in place or hook the elastic loops over your ears. If you are wearing a surgical mask, press the nose wire around your nose.
- When wearing the mask, be careful to only touch the ties or elastic.
- Don’t touch the front or inside of your mask. If you do, wash your hands immediately or use alcohol-based hand rub.
- Do not allow your mask to hang around your neck.
- Replace the mask with a new one if it gets damp.
- Do not reuse disposable masks. They are one-use only and are not designed to be reused.
- A scarf or bandana is not considered an appropriate face mask.
To remove the mask:
- To remove the mask, untie or unhook the loops from your ears and take the mask away from your face being careful not to touch the front or inside of the mask
- If your mask is disposable, put it straight into a rubbish bin or into a plastic bag to store until you get to a rubbish bin. If your mask is cloth and reusable, put it in a plastic bag to store until you can wash it.
- Wash your hands all over with soap and water, rinse and dry well. Alternatively use alcohol-based hand rub.
For more information visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.
Acceptable face masks, as defined by Public Health, include face coverings that fit securely around the face and are designed to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide protection against infection. This does not include face shields.
You can use either disposable (single use) face masks or reusable cloth masks. A disposable mask should be replaced with a new mask if you need to take it off for any reason.
Public Health does not recommend the use of scarves or bandanas as face masks.
If you are required to wear a face mask, there are some reasons when you can remove it.
These include when:
- you are eating, drinking or taking medicine
- you are communicating with someone who has impaired hearing or who is deaf, and visibility of your mouth is essential for communication
- wearing the mask would create a risk to your health or safety
- visibility of your mouth is essential as part of your employment or training
- you require medical care and this is unable to be provided while you wear a face mask
- you are requested to remove your face mask by a person in authority, to ascertain or confirm your identity
- you are required by law to remove your face mask.
You must put a face mask back on as soon as you can after removing it for one of the above reasons.