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Your Covid-19 questions answered

How should I dispose of my mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19?

26 January 2022 - 07:00
There are steps you can take to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 from used masks.
There are steps you can take to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 from used masks.
Image: Aleksey Satyrenko/123RF

Wearing a mask in public is crucial to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but how do you make sure you are not putting others at risk of contracting the coronavirus when throwing away your mask?

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 cloth masks can be used multiple times, provided they are washed after every use, disposable masks must be thrown away after use.

How do you make sure the mask you threw away does not infect those involved in refuse collection?

The Western Cape health department said there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 from used masks.

In a hospital or clinic, the disposal of masks is part of the healthcare risk waste (medical waste) that is removed under contract, but in the home it is suggested you first wrap masks and gloves in newspaper before throwing them in the bin.

“If you have been in contact with an infected person your domestic waste must be double-bagged and stored in the sun for three to five days before placing it in the general waste bin for collection by the municipality.”

All masks should follow these safety guidelines:

  • The mask should have three layers. The outer two layers are best made from thick weave cotton such as 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.

It is important to never share your mask with anyone else.


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