All Your Mask-Wearing Safety and Etiquette Questions Answered

Right now we’re all doing our best to keep ourselves and others safe against the spread of COVID-19. This includes staying home, avoiding crowds, washing our hands often, keeping six feet of distance when possible, and following guidelines for wearing a mask.

As we take measures to be as safe as possible, it’s important to be informed. While the CDC guidelines offer a starting point when it comes to mask-wearing, there are a number of other questions you might have. How often should I wash my mask? Is there a proper way to remove a mask? Do I need to wear it when out on a run?

We’ve done some digging into the most common mask safety and etiquette questions so we can all be well informed and can wear our masks with confidence, knowing we are doing everything in our power to stay safe and healthy. For all mask-related questions, read below for the must-know information.


How often should you wash your mask?

According to the CDC, you should wash your mask after each use. Check the washing instructions on your particular mask, though typically they can be placed in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry or can be washed by hand. Since you should wash your mask frequently, it’s a good idea to have a large stash to pull from.


Should you wear a mask when going running or working out outside?

This really depends on the route of your run or where you plan to work out. The advice from Runners World is if you have any chance of encountering other people, especially in close proximity, you should be wearing a mask. However, if you are able to find a route or space where you will not come within 6 ft. of another person, running without a mask should be fine.

You should still bring a mask with you in the event that you have an accident, need to stop into a store, or happen to come across other people (even if you are sure the route will be clear). Exercising with a mask isn’t particularly comfortable, so it is best if you can find a secluded outdoor space for your run or workout.


Should you wear your mask when going out for a walk?

The advice for this topic is similar. If you are heading out on a route where you will not encounter other people, it’s probably safe to go mask-free (but still bring one with you). However, if there is even the slightest chance you’ll see another person or come in close contact, wear your mask as an extra safety measure.



Should you wear your mask in the car or when going to a drive-thru?

While driving in your car alone or with family members, it isn’t necessary to have a mask on at all times. This changes when you go through a drive-thru. According to health experts, yes, you should wear a mask when interacting with a fast-food employee via a drive-thru window. It may seem like you can keep the appropriate distance, but it is best and safest to have your mask on. The same goes for answering your door to meet a delivery driver.


Should my baby wear a mask?

According to the CDC, children under the age of 2 should not wear a mask, as this can be a suffocation hazard. Since babies shouldn’t wear masks, you should take preventative steps to keep them safe. Clean hands often, avoid people who are sick, keep at least 6 ft. of distance between your children and other people, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, wash items often, and ensure your children are up-to-date on well-child visits and immunizations. Children over age 2, however, should wear a kid-size face mask.


Is it effective to wear a mask under your nose?

Short answer—no. You must wear your mask correctly in order for it to be effective and this means it snugly covers your mouth and nose. Wearing a mask around your neck, under your nose, or in your pocket isn’t going to keep you or others safe. Think of it like going biking with your helmet unclipped or hung from your handlebars—that’s probably not going to protect your head, just as a mask that doesn’t cover your nose isn’t going to protect anyone.


Source: @mrsnipple_


Does the material of your mask matter?

New findings say yes, the material of your mask does indeed matter. According to a Duke University study, the most effective masks are Surgical N95 (though should be reserved for health professionals), three-layer simple surgical masks, and cotton masks. The worst ranking masks are those bandannas and those made of fleece or knit fabrics.


What is better: a mask or a face shield?

This one is up for debate. It’s hard to do a direct comparison of masks to face shields since there is such a wide range of masks to compare. Most research has been done on the effectiveness of face masks, which is why the FDA and CDC recommend wearing a face mask. If health reasons prevent you from wearing a mask, a face shield may be a good option.


How do you properly and safely remove a mask?

This might come as a surprise to you, but the way you take your mask off is pretty important. The CDC outlines the exact way to remove your mask: untie or remove the strings from behind your ears, handle only by the ear loops, fold outside corners together, and remove the mask without touching the outside facing fabric. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing your mask and wash your hands immediately after removing the mask.


Read the full mask-wearing guidelines from the CDC here.