Your Covid-19 questions answered

How do I know if my mask is good enough to protect me?

29 September 2021 - 07:00
By Kyle Zeeman
Cloth masks can be used multiple times and washed in between use.
Image: REUTERS/Maggie Andresen Cloth masks can be used multiple times and washed in between use.

Wearing a mask in public is required by law and is meant to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, but how do you know if the mask you are wearing is good enough?

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) “masks help prevent the transmission of Covid-19 by stopping the spread of respiratory droplets when people talk, sneeze or cough”.

While the N95 masks used by doctors and nurses add additional protection for healthcare workers, cloth masks are recommended for the public.

Not only are they easier to make, they also can be used multiple times and washed in between use.

However, before you rush off to ask your gogo to make you one, here are safety guidelines experts recommend to ensure the mask is effective:

  • The mask should have three layers. The outer two layers are best made from thick weave cotton like denim, calico, upholstery fabric or Shweshwe. The inner layer is best made from soft cotton to make the mask comfortable to wear.
  • The mask should be easy to breathe through so avoid T-shirt material and use fabrics that can be washed in hot water and ironed.
  • The mask should be a square shape with three pleats to help with the fit.
  • The mask should cover from above the nose to below the chin and up to the ears.
  • The mask should tie behind the head with ties from the top and bottom of the mask or elastic that hooks over the ears.

The NICD recommends having at least two masks so you have a spare to use while the other is in the wash.

“Wash your mask daily with soap and hot water. The mask is best dried in the sun and ironed. Do not share your mask with anyone.”