Using face masks

How to use and dispose of face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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When to wear a face mask

See face mask rules and exemptions.

Tips on wearing a face mask

  • Wash or sanitise your hands before putting on or taking off your mask. 
  • When removing your mask, avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times. 

  • Ensure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face. 

  • Refrain from touching the front of your mask while wearing or removing it. 

  • Do not allow the mask to hang around your neck or under your nose. 

  • Do not reuse single-use masks. 

  • Wash and dry reusable masks after use and store in a clean, dry place. 

Reusing or disposing of face masks 

  • Remove your mask outside and away from other people, if possible. 

  • Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom one first, then the top one.

  • When removing your mask, avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times. 

  • Dispose of single-use masks responsibly in athe general rubbish bin. For extra safety, where possible, put it into a sealed bag before putting it in the bin to ensure others won’t touch it. 

  • Don’t put disposable masks in the recycling. Most single-use masks contain soft plastics and cannot be recycled. They can also get caught in recycling equipment and be a hazard to waste management workers. 

  • Wash and dry reusable cloth masks after each use.  

    • Store in a plastic or zip-lock bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.  

    • Wash cloth masks in the washing machine  in hot water (between 60°C to 90°C) with other clothes. If washing mask by hand, be sure to wash it thoroughly with soap in hot water.  

    • Lay out flat to dry (in the sun if possible) or put in the dryer.   

    • Store in a clean, dry place. 


How to wear a mask

How to wear a mask


Some people in NSW are choosing to use a mask when they are not able to physically distance. Wearing a mask can help prevent you giving COVID-19 to other people.

It's really important though that we use our mask correctly so that we reduce the risk that we're going to be contaminated or spread contamination around us.

The first thing we should do when we're about to put on a mask is to perform hand hygiene. That means giving your hands a really good clean so that you're less likely to take any germs from your hands to your face while you're putting on the mask.

The next thing we do is make sure that we put on the mask by making sure it's the right way up. We make sure that we've got our ear loops ready, then we put the mask on by touching an ear loop taking it across our face and putting it over the ear.

We then need to adjust our mask to make sure that it's comfortable and so that we're not going to keep fiddling with it after we've done it. After we've touched our face, as always, it's a good idea to clean our hands.

When we're ready to take our mask off, because we've got out of that situation where we couldn't physically distance well, we need to be careful about how we take the mask off.

If it is a disposable mask like this one, please don't keep it to reuse it, make sure that you dispose of it.

If it's a cloth mask that you're taking off, you shouldn't wear it again that day. You should put it into a plastic bag, keep it safe so you can wash it at the end of the day. That's why you may need more than one cloth mask.

It's really important to do your hand hygiene before you go to touch your face and that you handle the mask only by the ear loops.

Single-use masks 

Use single-use masks made with a non-woven, melt-blown polypropylene layer. Typically these are the pale blue or white medical style masks. 

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 

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. 

Other face coverings

Face Shields

Face shields are not a substitute for face masks however people who are unable to wear a mask due to an exemption, and may still want some protection, may find it easier to wear a face shield.  

If this is the case for you, ensure the face shield covers the sides of your 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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