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Face masks - types of face masks

Information about types of face masks in Victoria.

Face masks update

  • From 11:59pm on Friday 9 April 2021, Victoria has further relaxed its COVIDSafe settings. These changes are designed to balance getting Victorians back to doing the things they love while keeping in place measures to protect all that Victorians have worked so hard for.
  • You must carry a face mask with you at all times when you leave the home, unless you have a lawful reason not to. 
  • Face masks must be worn: 
    • on public transport, in commercial passenger vehicles such as taxis and ride share vehicles, and in tour vehicles 
    • by visitors to a hospital 
    • by visitors at a care facility (while indoors) 
    • on flights to and from Victoria  
    • at airports 
    • if you are a diagnosed person, or a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, when leaving your home or accommodation for a permitted reason, such as to seek medical care or get tested 
    • while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test when leaving your home or accommodation for a permitted reason, such as to seek medical care (except as part of a surveillance or other asymptomatic testing program) 
    • while experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. 
  • It is recommended that you wear a face mask when at a private gathering or when you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people (such as at outdoor markets, outdoor concerts, street markets, at a busy bus stop or train station platform). 
  • There are a number of lawful reasons to not wear a face mask.

What does ‘wearing a fitted face mask’ mean?

You must carry a face mask with you when you leave home. There are a number of lawful reasons to not wear a face mask.

A fitted face mask is required instead of other face coverings because it provides better protection. As restrictions ease and movement increases, the effectiveness of a face mask is even more important. 

A face mask includes any paper or textile covering designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to protect the wearer. It does not have to be medical grade and you can make your own.

When do I have to wear a fitted face mask?

Carry a mask whenever you leave home. It’s strongly recommended you wear it whenever you can’t stay 1.5 metres apart from others. 

Face masks must be worn on public transport, in commercial passenger vehicles such as rideshare vehicles, taxis and tour vehicles, by visitors to a hospital and when visiting care facilities (while indoors), at airports and during flights to and from Victoria.

Businesses will display a sign if you need to wear a mask in their setting. 

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, waiting for results of a COVID-19 test, are diagnosed with COVID-19, or you are close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, you must wear a mask if you need to leave your home for a permitted reason (for example, if you need medical care or getting a COVID-19 test) 

Is a scarf or bandana an appropriate face covering? 

You must wear a fitted face mask that covers the nose and mouth, designed to protect you from COVID-19. It does not mean a scarf or bandana or loose snood or loose gaiter.

The Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with 3 layers that fits securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth.

Why should I wear a fitted face mask? 

You must carry a fitted face mask which covers your nose and mouth when you are leaving your home, unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so. Face masks are an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones. 

Wearing a fitted face mask helps keep you and others safe. COVID-19 is spread from close contact with a person with COVID-19. Face masks help stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. 

The best way to protect other people against COVID-19 is keeping at least 1.5 metres apart, wash your hands often, and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue. 

Can I wear a snood or gaiter instead of a mask? 

A face mask is always recommended. The Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with three layers that fits securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth. 

However, a fitted snood or fitted gaiter is allowed. 

The emphasis is on fitted. 

In this instance fitted means the snood or gaiter can extend in a fitted form to snugly fit over and cover your nose and mouth. It must be secure around your neck and lower face with no gaps along the nose ridge or the top of the garment. This is designed to protect you from COVID-19. It must be a sufficient face covering for this purpose. 

A loose-fitting snood or gaiter or scarf or bandana is not allowed. 

What is a snood or gaiter? 

In this instance a snood or gaiter is taken to mean a face and neck covering, in the form of a closed loop, worn around the face and neck. They are taken to be interchangeable terms. 

Can I wear a face shield? 

You cannot wear a face shield on its own. You also cannot wear a bandana or scarf on its own. 

You can wear a face shield with a face mask that covers the nose and mouth. If you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask, you can choose to wear a face shield on its own. 

Ensure they are properly designed to cover the sides of the face and below the chin. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Disposable face shields should only be worn for single use. Ensure you follow the instructions as per manufacturers guidelines. 

Cloth face masks 

Can I wear a cloth face mask? 

Yes, you can wear a cloth face mask, as long as it fitted closely and covers your nose and mouth. 

How can I make a cloth face mask? 

Use our guide to make a cloth face mask (PDF) that covers your nose and mouth and is made of washable fabric. 

Tegar, Nancy and Amy from The Social Studio have produced a video to show the easy steps to make one yourself. 

Watch how to make a cloth face mask. 

Does a cloth face mask have to have 3 layers? 

While the Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with 3 layers (PDF), wearing a face mask with less layers will still give you some protection. It is important it covers your nose and mouth.

Can I wear a disposable face mask? 

Yes, however you should dispose of it after one use. You should dispose of your face mask responsibly by putting it in the rubbish bin.

Can it just be a scarf or does it have to be a face mask? 

Victorians should wear a fitted face mask that covers the nose and mouth. Face shields, bandanas, scarves, on their own are no longer considered a sufficient face covering.

As movement increases, the effectiveness of a face mask is even more important.

A fitted face mask with 3 layers is the option recommended by the Chief Health Officer, as it provides the best protection for you and others.

How do I wear a face mask correctly?  

Cloth face mask 

A cloth face mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas. The face mask should fit snugly on your face and be secured by ties at the back of your head or ear loops. If you are using a face mask with ear loops, you can use a plastic clip or tie to join the ends together at the back of your head to make sure it fits snugly on your face.

Make sure that your face mask does not have holes or any unfiltered one-way valves. This can result in breathing out the virus if you have COVID-19.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol, before putting on your face mask and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used cloth face masks in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

Surgical face mask (single use)

  • A surgical face mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas. 
  • Before putting on the face mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol.
  • Check for defects in the face mask, such as tears or broken loops.
  • Position the outer side of the face mask outward according to the instructions of the manufacturer.
  • If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the face mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose. 
  • If the face mask has: 
    • ear loops: hold the face mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear 
    • ties: hold the face mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings securely in a bow near the nape of your neck 
    • dual elastic bands: pull the bottom band over your head and position it against the nape of your neck. Pull the top band over your head and position it against the crown of your head. 
  • Mould the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers. 
  • Pull the bottom of the face mask over your mouth and chin. 
  • Be sure the face mask fits snugly. 
  • Don’t touch the face mask once in position. 

If the face mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one. 

How do I know my cloth face mask is working? 

You know your face mask is working to protect you if it is well fitted. If the ties are loose, tighten them to ensure a snug fit. The face mask should fit snugly and cover your nose and mouth. Keep an eye on the integrity of the fabric as it may thin over time with repeated washing. If this happens, replace the face mask. 

When should I wash my cloth face mask? 

A cloth face mask should be washed each day after use. However, if during the day your mask is visibly dirty or wet, do not continue wearing your mask; the mask needs to be washed. 

Re-using a cloth face mask without washing is risky because it can become contaminated or may not be as effective in protecting you. 

How do I wash my cloth face mask? 

Cloth face masks can be washed in the washing machine with other clothes, or hand-washed using soap and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth.

Your cloth face mask should be dry before re-using it. You can use the heat setting on your dryer or lay out flat to air dry. If possible, place the cloth face mask in direct sunlight. Wash your hands after handling used face masks.

How do I know when it is time to get a new cloth face mask? 

Each cloth face mask will be constructed differently, therefore there is no specific ‘shelf life’ of a cloth face mask. However, the following are signs that your cloth face mask may no longer be offering you the same level of protection it once was: 

  • your cloth face mask does not fit snugly on your face (e.g. you can feel your breath coming out of the sides of the mask)
  • your cloth face mask keeps falling off or sliding down
  • there are holes in your cloth face mask
  • you need to keep adjusting your cloth face mask
  • the material has started to wear thin or fray.

Reviewed 12 April 2021

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