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Types of face masks

Single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, if used correctly. 

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Face masks should

  • fit securely around the face
  • be designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection.

Single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, if used correctly. 

Single-use masks 

Use masks made with a non-woven, melt-blown polypropylene layer. Don't use masks with holes or a valve, as you will breathe out the virus if you have COVID-19. The main value of wearing a mask is to protect other people. 

Buy single-use masks from reputable retail outlets including chemists, supermarkets and other shops. 

Be aware of fake masks. Increased demand for surgical masks is leading to fake masks entering the Australian market. If you require a medical-grade mask as a health care worker, you should only wear compliant masks. Masks that meet the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1716:2012) or international equivalent: 

  • have the manufacturers name, trademark or trade name on the mask 

  • are certified by an independent body such as SAI Global, and have their licence number marked on the packaging 

  • are certified by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), if from the United States of America. 

Learn more about how to identify fake masks

Contact NSW Fair Trading if you would like to report a mask that you believe is defective, unsafe or not otherwise fit for purpose. 

Reusable cloth masks and face coverings 

Cloth masks are effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19 to other people when they are made and worn correctly. 

See instructions for how to make a cloth mask.  

Many retailers, community organisations and individuals also sell reusable cloth masks. 

To ensure adequate protection, cloth masks should have at least 3 layers of fabric: 

  1. The outer layer should be a water-resistant polyester or polypropylene fabric such as a reusable supermarket bags (not plastic) or exercise clothing 

  1. The middle layer should be high-grade cotton (such as bed sheets), polycotton (such as quilting fabric or a t-shirt) 

  1. The inner layer should be high-grade cotton (such as bed sheets) or polycotton (such as quilting fabric or a t-shirt). 

You will need more than one reusable mask as cloth masks are less effective when damp. Cloth masks should be washed after each use or at least daily. Reusing a cloth mask without washing it can lead to self-contamination and infection of the person wearing it. 

Face shields

People who have limited ability to wear a mask may find it easier to wear a face shield. Face shields are not a substitute for masks.

Ensure the face shield covers the sides of the face and below the chin. Clean and disinfect reusable face shields after each use. Wear disposable face shields only once. 

Scarfs and bandanas 

A scarf or bandana is not recommended as they do not offer the same amount of protection as a well-fitted mask. Using a scarf is also an infection risk, because people keep wearing the scarf. 


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