Face covering guidance - reusable is best

Which is best - a reusable covering or a disposable/single use face covering?

Using a reusable face covering has a number of advantages:
  • You can buy or make the covering using a comfortable material
  • The covering can be easily washed and used again. This might help you save money, especially if you need to regularly wear one.
  • They are more sustainable and better for the environment
  • You can make your covering using material you potentially already have at home
  • There is no additional benefit in using a disposable covering versus a washed and clean reusable cloth one. It is best to use a reusable cloth covering if you can.
Medical grade masks should not be worn for general use as face coverings.

For more details on where and when you need to wear a covering please visit the government guidance.

What type of face coverings are the best for the environment?

It's best to use reusable cloth face coverings if you can. This is what the government recommends. The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that people make their own multiple-layer mask rather than relying on disposable ones.

The main problem with disposable face coverings is the waste they generate. This is because they should only be used once and then thrown away safely.

According to UCL's Plastic Waste Innovation Hub, if everyone in the UK used one single-use face covering each day for a year, it would create 66,000 tonnes of plastic waste that cannot be recycled. Unfortunately, this could also mean more litter if masks are not disposed of properly, which is not only unsightly but can also pollute our parks and rivers.

Cloth face coverings can be reused and washed as part of your laundry and using your normal detergent.

Face covering guidance

Face coverings should be reusable and can be made from materials in your home - you just need to make sure you have enough fabric to snugly cover from the top of your nose to the bottom of your chin.

Please wear a face covering in all public indoor spaces and whenever you can’t keep a 2m distance from others.

Face coverings protect those around you and will help slow the spread of the virus. If you have COVID-19 without any symptoms and are not wearing a face covering, the risk of spreading it to others nearby can be as high as 70%. If you do wear a face covering, it drops to 5%.

Remember, if you develop symptoms you should remain at home, self-isolate and book a test as soon as you can.

It is mandatory by law to wear a face covering on all public transport and in shops, including supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, banks, building societies and post offices. It is now also mandatory to wear them in hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants (except when sitting to eat or drink) and in taxis and private hire vehicles. Some people are exempt from wearing them.

Wearing and washing your face covering safely

  • It is important to remember that even if your mouth and nose are covered the infection can be spread on your hands. Always wash your hands when you get home and avoid touching your face and eyes at all times.
  • Make sure that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap before and after touching or adjusting your face covering or handling it in any way.
  • Cloth face coverings should cover your mouth and nose, whilst allowing you to breathe comfortably.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, or mouth
  • Don’t touch your face or face covering with unwashed hands or gloves
  • Do not touch the front of the face covering or the part that has been in contact with your mouth and nose – these may have virus on them.
  • When wearing a face covering, take care to tuck away loose ends.
  • Wash your face covering regularly. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent.
  • Store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them
  • Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched
If you are using a single-use face covering, please ensure you dispose of it safely in your black bag rubbish at home if possible. Never litter your face covering or gloves. This puts other people at risk, especially refuse collectors and street cleaners.

Remember that wearing a face covering is not a substitute for staying at home as much as possible, washing your hands frequently, and keeping at least 2 metres from others.

Putting your face covering on

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face or face covering with unwashed hands or gloves. Put the covering on without touching the front of the covering, and ensure loose ends are tucked away when you have it on.

Taking your face covering off

Remove your face covering trying not to touch the front or face covering area. When you have removed it, store it in a bag until you have an opportunity to wash it and the bag. Make sure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap after handling your face covering.

Washing your face covering

Face coverings can be washed as part of your laundry and using your normal detergent. Make sure you wash your hands after handling a used face mask and avoid touching your face and eyes. Once removed make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched.
Which is best - a reusable covering or a disposable/single use face covering?

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