6 Face Mask Mistakes You're Making, According to a Doctor

Leah Groth
·3 min read

At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, it is extremely inadvisable to go out in public without wearing a mask. Why? Wearing a protective face covering has been found time and again to be one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, there is a decent chance you aren’t maximizing the effectiveness of your face mask, according to Karen Jubanyik, MD, Yale Medicine Emergency Medicine Physician, Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine, Yale School of Medicine and one of the authors of Beat the Coronavirus: Strategies for Staying Safe and Coping With the New Normal During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Read on to learn about the biggest mask mistakes you are making—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

1

“Treat Your Mask Like Underwear”

Woman putting on face mask while sitting in a cafe during coronavirus.
Woman putting on face mask while sitting in a cafe during coronavirus.

If you aren’t wearing and caring for your mask like your finest pieces of lingerie, then you are making a huge mistake. “The best analogy is to treat your mask like underwear,” Dr. Jubanyik tells Eat This, Not That! Health.

2

Make Sure It Fits Well

Woman on a street wearing face mask protective for spreading of disease virus SARS-CoV-2
Woman on a street wearing face mask protective for spreading of disease virus SARS-CoV-2

You wouldn’t wear baggy underwear or a bra that is too tight, so think about your mask in a similar way, making sure it is well-fitting. “A poorly fitting mask will have you grabbing at it and you need to avoid touching your face/mask,” Dr. Jubanyik points out.

3

Your Material Matters

woman with smartphone going on holiday, wearing face masks at the airport
woman with smartphone going on holiday, wearing face masks at the airport

Scratchy undies and bras can make your day miserable and so can a mask made out of subpar material. “Make sure it is a comfortable material for your skin,” says Dr. Jubanyik. “You do not want to break out in a rash due to irritation from the material. If this happens, you will not want to wear the mask as much as you should.”

4

Don’t Re-Wear Them

sick with a new coronavirus coughs in a disposable facial mask
sick with a new coronavirus coughs in a disposable facial mask

If the thought of wearing dirty underwear two days in a row grosses you out, you should avoid re-wearing a soiled mask. “Wash after every use,” Dr. Jubanyik asserts.

5

Wash Your Mask Like Your Undergarments

Cleaning your mask properly is not only key in terms of disinfection, but also making sure it will last as long as possible. “Wash in hot water,” instructs Dr. Jubanyik. “Dry fine materials in air, while more durable fabrics can go in the dryer."

6

Don’t Share With Others

family with dad, mom and daughter staying at home wearing facial masks
family with dad, mom and daughter staying at home wearing facial masks

You probably don’t let your friends and family wear your underwear. Dr. Jubanyik suggests maintaining the same policy with your mask. “Do not share with others,” she says.

7

How to Survive This Pandemic

Eye of Female Doctor
Eye of Female Doctor

As for yourself, keep you mask clean and follow Dr. Anthony Fauci’s fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a (clean!) face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.