Your Guide to Masks

Your Guide to Masks

CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people. Effective February 2, 2021, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

How to Select

When selecting a mask, there are many choices. Here are some do’s and don’ts.

DO choose masks that
DO choose masks that have 2 or more layers of washable, breathable fabric graphic.

Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric

DO choose masks that completely cover your nose and mouth;

Completely cover your nose and mouth

DO choose masks that fit snugly against the sides of your face and don't have gaps.

Fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps

Girl with glasses and mask

Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask

DO NOT choose masks that
DO NOT choose masks that are made of fabric that makes it hard to breath, for example, vinyl

Are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe, for example, vinyl

No masks with valves

Have exhalation valves or vents which allow virus particles to escape

DO NOT choose masks that are intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators or surgical masks

Are intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators

Special Considerations

Gaiters & face shields
graphic of a man wearing a gaiter

Wear a gaiter with two layers, or fold it to make two layers

graphic of a woman with a face shield

Not recommended: Evaluation of face shields is ongoing, but effectiveness is unknown at this time.

Children
graphic of girl wearing a pink mask

Find a mask that is made for children to help ensure proper fit

graphic of a boy wearing a blue mask

Check to be sure the mask fits snugly over the nose and mouth and under the chin and that there are no gaps around the sides

graphic of a girl wearing a blue mask

Do NOT put on children younger than 2 years old

Cold weather gear
girl sitting on bench with scarf and mask on

Wear your scarf, ski mask or balaclava over your mask

girl sitting on bench with scarf

Scarves, ski masks and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks

People with beards

Certain types of facial hair, like beards, can make mask fitting difficult. Masks that fit well protect you better. To have a better fit, people with beards can shave their beards or trim their beards close to the face.

Other ways to improve fit

graphic of a bearded man wearing a disposable fitter

Use a mask fitter or brace.

graphic of a bearded man wearing a disposable cloth

Wear one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric. The second mask should push the edges of the inner mask against the face and beard.

For people with beards that are not trimmed close to the face, masks may fit loosely around the beard. However, people with beards should still wear a mask. Masks designed for people with beards are being evaluated, and information will be provided when it becomes available.

For more information on evidence for effectiveness of masks, other types of face protection, and mask alternatives, see Guidance for Wearing Masks

How to Wear

Wear a mask correctly and consistently for the best protection.

  • Be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on a mask.
  • Do NOT touch the mask when wearing it. If you have to often touch/adjust your mask, it doesn’t fit you properly, and you may need to find a different mask or make adjustments.

For more information, visit our How to Wear Masks web page.

Do wear a mask that
Do wear a mask that: Covers your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin; Fits snugly against the sides of your face.

  • Covers your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Fits snugly against the sides of your face.
How NOT to wear a mask
elderly woman with mask around her neck

Around your neck

man with mask on forehead

On your forehead

man with mask under nose

Under your nose

man with mask on face but without his mouth covered

Only on your nose

man with mask on chin

On your chin

woman with mask hanging from ear

Dangling from one ear

man with mask hanging on arm

On your arm

How to take off a mask
Guy taking off mask
lite icon

Carefully, untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops

graphic of hands holding an orange mask
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Handle only by the ear loops or ties

graphic of the inside of an orange mask
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Fold the outside corners together

graphic of a person cleaning their hands
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Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing

How to Clean
Washer and dryer - dryer has regular laundry including face masks

Reusable masks should be washed regularly. Always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask.

  • Include your mask with your regular laundry
  • Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask
  • Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry

For more information, visit our How to Wash Masks web page.

For more information, see our Masks web site. For information on the sources for our mask guidance, see Recent Studies.