Guidelines for the use of Fabric Face Masks

Please read below for recommendations from the Western Cape Department of Health for good hygiene, protection offered by masks, when to use the masks, how to use a mask and how to maintain it (source: Western Cape Department of Health):

The Golden Rules of Good Hygiene:

  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water 
  • Do not touch your face with unwashed hands 
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the corner of your arm, and safely throw away the tissue 
  • Keep a distance of 1,5m (or 2m) from others 
  • If you are ill, stay at home, or arrange for clinical assessment

Protection Offered By Fabric Face Masks (When Appropriately Used & Cleaned):

  • The mask will not necessarily protect the wearer, but may help to reduce viral transmission by containing respiratory droplets generated when the wearer speaks, sneezes and coughs
  • All masks provide a physical barrier when covering the wearer’s nose and mouth and may reduce inhaling a large number of droplets. While cloth masks are considered less effective than medical / surgical face masks, these will provide a physical barrier to reduce expulsion and inhalation if the cloth mask is made of a heavy, tight weave.
  • Cloth masks act as a physical barrier and may help to stop people touching their face, mucous membranes and mouth
  • Cloth masks may reduce virus exposure in overcrowded areas such as taxis, shops or government buildings  
  • Cloth masks will create greater awareness around COVID-19

When to Use Fabric Face Mask:

Cloth masks can be used by both the community and non-healthcare workers and where there is no physical contact. This includes: 

  • Travel to and from work in public transport 
  • When stepping outside the house to go shopping or seeking healthcare 
  • In self isolation when contact with others is necessary (remember distancing) 
  • When stopping and talking to members of the public (for example, traffic police) 
  • When conducting interviews during house to house visits (for example, Community workers) 
  • When cleaning the streets/ disposing of domestic rubbish

How to properly use a cloth mask: 

The usage of any type of mask should be accompanied by strictly adhering to safe use guidelines. It is very important that residents use a cloth mask properly. If they do not, it might result in them putting themselves at risk of spreading Covid-19. The simple guidelines to use are: 

  • Only use a mask that has been cleaned & ironed 
  • Place the mask with the correct side facing your nose and mouth and covering both well 
  • Tie the strings behind your head, or if you are using elastic bands, make sure these are tight 
  • Make sure it fits well. Move it around to get the best fit. Never touch the cloth part. 
  • Once you have put on the mask, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE again until you take it off 
  • When you take it off, undo the ties or remove over your head, and carefully fold the mask inside out, hold it by the strings/elastic and place the mask in a container preserved for washing the cloth mask
  • Wash hands thoroughly and dry before doing anything else 
  • Do not share cloth masks between members of the family
  • Make sure there are at least two cloth masks per person in the household, including children

Maintaining the mask: 

You must have at least two cloth masks per person so you will be able to wash one and have a clean one ready for use. 

  • Wash the mask daily in soap and hot water
  • Rinse thoroughly and dry 
  • IRON THE MASK – this is the best means of disinfection! (Do not hot-iron the non-woven filter)
  • If you do not have an iron, place the mask with the outside facing down on a metal sheet and place it in the sun; leave it there for a couple of hours – the heat should disinfect it
  • DO NOT SOAK THE MASK IN CHEMICALS AS THESE GET ABSORBED AND MAY BE INHALED CAUSING DAMAGE TO THE RESPIRATORY TRACT