Wearing a cloth face covering is recommended in situations where it is difficult to practise social distancing, for example, in shops or on busy public transport. Wearing of cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others.
If you wear one, you should still do the important things necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
washing your hands properly and often
covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
not touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
social distancing (keeping at least 2 metres away from other people)
A cloth face covering is a material you wear that covers the nose and mouth.
Wearing a cloth face covering in public may reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the community. It may help to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from people infected with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
Cloth face coverings may help to stop people who are not aware they have the virus from spreading it.
If you have COVID-19 (Coronavirus) or have symptoms of the virus, you must self-isolate. Do this even if you wear a face covering.
When to wear one
Wearing of face coverings is recommended in the following circumstances:
when staying 2 metres apart from people is difficult - for example, in shops, shopping centres or public transport
by people visiting the homes of those who are cocooning
by people who are being visited in their homes by those who are cocooning
What they are made from
Cloth face coverings are made from materials such as cotton, silk, or linen.
You can buy them or make them at home using items such as scarfs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.
Who should not wear one
Cloth face coverings are not suitable for children under the age of 13 and anyone who:
has trouble breathing
is unconscious or incapacitated
is unable to remove it without help
has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering
Do not criticise or judge people who are not able to wear a face covering.
How to wear one
A cloth face covering should cover the nose and go under the chin and:
fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
be secured with ties or ear loops
include at least 2 layers of fabric
allow for breathing without restriction
How to wash one
Wash daily in a hot wash over 60 degrees with detergent.
If using a washing machine, you should be able to wash and machine dry it without damage or change to shape.
You do not need to sterilise cloth face coverings. Wash it in a washing machine or by hand as you would any other item of clothing.
Wash hands before and after use.
How to make one
To make a cloth face covering at home:
cut two rectangles of tightly-woven cotton about 25cm x 15cm
fold and stitch the top and bottom edges
fold and stitch the side edges, leaving a gap big enough to thread elastic through
thread two 15cm lengths of elastic through the side edges and tie tight. Hair ties or string, cut longer and tied behind the head, will work
tuck elastic knots inside the edges of the mask and stitch in place for a neater finish
When to throw it out
You should throw out a cloth face covering when it:
no longer covers the nose and mouth
has stretched out or damaged ties or straps
cannot stay on the face
has holes or tears in the fabric
How to use a cloth face covering properly
clean your hands properly before you put it on
practise using it so you are comfortable putting it on and taking it off
make sure it is made from a fabric you are comfortable wearing
cover your mouth and nose with it and make sure there are no gaps between your cloth face covering
tie it securely
carry unused masks in a sealable clean waterproof bag(for example, a ziplock bag)
carry a second similar type bag to put used masks in
touch a mask or face covering while wearing it - if you do, clean your hands properly
use a damp or wet medical mask or reuse a medical mask
do not lower your mask to speak, eat and smoke or vape - if you need to uncover your nose or mouth take the mask off and put it in the bag for used masks
do not discard masks in public places
Taking off a cloth face covering
To take it off properly:
remove it from behind - do not touch the front of the mask
do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
clean your hands properly
put disposable masks in a bin straight away
Medical face masks
Medical masks (surgical and respirator) are for healthcare workers. Some workers in specific jobs also use them. They are vital supplies and are not intended for use by the public in the community. We want to try and make sure that medical face masks are kept for health care workers.
Do not wear disposable gloves instead of washing your hands.
The virus gets on them in the same way it gets on your hands. Also, your hands can get contaminated when you take them off.
Disposable gloves are worn in medical settings. They are not as effective in daily life.
Wearing disposable gloves can give you a false sense of security.
sneeze or cough into the gloves - this creates a new surface for the virus to live on
contaminate yourself when taking off the gloves or touching surfaces
not wash your hands as often as you need to and touch your face with contaminated gloves