Now that the Government of Canada officially recommends wearing a non-medical mask in the community when it’s not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre distance from others, many of us will be incorporating non-medical masks into our daily lives. To help, we’re sharing some information from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) on what you should know about removing them safely, and for fabric masks, how you can clean them safely. 

First, a refresher on what do non-medical masks do:  

Remember that N95 masks and medical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers—today we’re talking about non-medical masks (often these are homemade fabric masks).  

To find out more about what non-medical masks can do, what they don’t replace, and how to make one, read our blog post on masks and COVID-19

They likely don’t protect you, but they can protect those around you: 

According to the Government of Canada, wearing non-medical masks has not been proven to protect the person wearing them from contracting COVID-19. Instead, they act as a physical barrier to help stop the spread of respiratory droplets coming from the mask-wearer to protect people around them.   

It’s important that you know that wearing a mask is just one part of protecting those around you (and that it doesn’t necessarily protect you from contracting COVID-19). Mask wearing must be combined with other preventative measures to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.  You must consistently and strictly adhere to good hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical (social) distancing.

So, here’s what you should know about removing face masks safely. 

To remove a mask safely:  

According to the BC CDC and the Government of Canada, you should follow these steps to remove a mask after use: 

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water, for 20 seconds before taking off your mask. 
    • If none is available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.
  2. Remove the mask from your face carefully.
    • Be sure to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth while removing the face covering.
    • Also avoid touching the front of the mask when removing it.
  3. The mask can be placed in a plastic bag temporarily if you’re not home, but make sure you close or zip seal the bag while storing it.
  4. After taking off your mask, wash your hands again with soap and water, for 20 seconds.

What to do with masks once you’ve removed them:    

For disposable non-medical masks: 

  • Disposable masks should be put in plastic lined wastebaskets as soon as they’re removed. 
    • Do not leave masks in shopping carts, on the ground or anywhere else they shouldn’t be.
  • When emptying wastebaskets, take care not to touch used masks (or tissues) with your hands. 

Once you’ve emptied the wastebasket, or handled used disposable masks, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.  

For fabric masks: 

  • If you plan to re-use the mask, it must be washed before wearing again.
    • You should change your mask as soon as it gets damp or soiled

To wash your cloth mask:

  1. Put it directly into the washing machine 
  2. You may wash it with other items, but it must be on the ‘hot’ cycle
  3. Dry thoroughly

Ensure you wash your hands after handling masks that need to be washed. 

This is an evolving situation and information is changing all the time, so go to the source for updated information.     

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Look through all of our COVID-19 related information on our website.       

 
Where do we fit in? Yes, we are a provincial regulator. We are responsible for some very specific transactions in BC. We aren’t experts on COVID-19. We won’t – and shouldn’t – ever give medical or legal advice. But we are in a unique circumstance right now and we want to help people navigate the current reality. We don’t have all the answers, but we will do our best to share information from reliable sources, put it in ways that are easy to digest and understand, provide referrals and help you navigate this situation.     
 
About Consumer Protection BC: We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.