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Face masks - types of face masks

Information about types of face masks in Victoria.

What does ‘wearing a fitted face mask’ mean?

You must carry a face mask with you when you leave home. Face masks are mandatory on public transport and when in taxis or ride share vehicles. Face masks must also be worn when inside shopping centres, including the retail stores inside the shopping centres, and large retail stores such as department stores, electronics stores, furniture stores, hardware stores or supermarkets. 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?

From 11.59pm, Sunday 17 January 2021, face masks will no longer be mandatory in all public indoor settings.

These requirements are in line with settings that were in place at Christmas time.

Face masks continue to be mandatory in the following locations:

  • on public transport
  • when riding in a ride share or taxi
  • inside supermarkets
  • in large retail stores (over 2000 sqm), such as department stores, electronics stores, furniture stores or hardware stores
  • inside shopping centres, including the retail stores inside shopping centres, such as clothing stores
  • inside indoor markets
  • on domestic flights to and from Victoria
  • at airports
  • in hospitals
  • when working in or visiting hospitals and care facilities.

You must always carry a face mask with you when you leave home unless you have a lawful reason not to.

It is strongly recommended you wear one whenever you cannot keep 1.5 metres distance from others.

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 coronavirus (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. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread from close contact with a person with coronavirus (COVID-19). Face masks help stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) but feels well. 

The best way to protect other people against coronavirus (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 coronavirus. 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 masks 

Can I wear a cloth mask? 

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

How can I make a cloth mask? 

Use our guide to make a cloth mask 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 mask

Does a cloth mask have to have 3 layers? 

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

Can I wear a disposable mask? 

Yes, however you should dispose of it after one use. You should dispose of your 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 mask  

A cloth mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas. The 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 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 mask does not have holes or any unfiltered one-way valves. This can result in breathing out the virus if you have coronavirus (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 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 mask (single use)

  • A surgical mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas.  
  • Before putting on the 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 mask, such as tears or broken loops.  
  • Position the outer side of the mask outward according to the instructions of the manufacturer.  
  • If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose.  
  • If the mask has:  
  • ear loops: hold the mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear  
  • ties: hold the 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 mask over your mouth and chin.  
  • Be sure the mask fits snugly.  
  • Don’t touch the mask once in position.  

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

How do I know my cloth face mask is working? 

You know your mask is working to protect you if it is well fitted. If the ties are loose, tighten them to ensure a snug fit. The 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 mask. 

When should I wash my cloth mask? 

A cloth 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 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 mask? 

Cloth 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 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 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 mask? 

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

  • your cloth 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 mask keeps falling off or sliding down 
  • there are holes in your cloth mask 
  • you need to keep adjusting your cloth mask 
  • the material has started to wear thin or fray 

Reviewed 18 January 2021

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