The cheerful mind perseveres and the strong mind hews its way through a thousand difficulties.
― Swami Vivekananda.


Face mask and cover: common mistakes and precautions

Face mask and cover: common mistakes and precautions

Coronavirus is spreading fast and it is here to stay. We have to take all possible precautionary measures to avoid infection. Many people who get infected are getting it because they did some mistakes while taking these precautions. The most common mode of infection of novel coronavirus is through respiratory droplets that can infect us via eyes, nose or mouth.

When we caught, sneeze or even talk, tiny droplets are released from our mouth and spread around. The droplets released from an COVID-19 infected person can carry coronavirus. If by accident you breathe in such droplets, you may get the disease. So, you must cover your face to avoid infection.

There are still doubts like should you wear a face mask and which face cover you should use? Shall you use a homemade face mask? What should be cloth for a homemade face mask? Or shall you buy a face mask? Which face mask you should buy? What are precautions with a face mask? How to protect other parts of the head? We will answer all these doubts.

World health organization recently requested everyone to at least wear a homemade mask and also released proper guidelines of its components. We will come to it but first, let's look at common mistakes we do with a face mask.

Common mistakes people make with face masks:

Face mask mistake 1: Leaving gaps  

The most important thing is facemask or face cover should fit in such a way that no air can come from the sides. If you are buying a mask, make sure it has that slim metal/plastic plate on top of the nose that you can press to avoid air passage from there. 

Proper way to use face mask
Image: Common face mask mistake that we must not do. 

There are ways to test this.

Test 1:

If you have any doubt, wear big spectacles or sunglasses after wearing a face mask and blow air with moderate force. If you got vapour on top of face mask, the air is passing from above. This works even better in cold or in the spectacles are cooled in a normal refrigerator for 2 minutes before doing this.

Face mask fitting test
Image: Vapour will come on spectacles/glasses if the face mask is not fit near the nose.

Test 2

If you have a doubt that your face mask is not fit from any side (usually it can be loose near the chin), you put a piece of light paper on that side, cover other sides and blow air from the mouth. If the paper moves, the mask is not fit.


If you can’t tight it by stretching the strip, just put some cotton/thin cloth in the gaps that is enough to cover the gap but do not hurt you.

Face mask mistake 2: Wrong cloth material 

Your face mask should not be made up of porous cloth. The best cloth is cotton, polypropylene and polyester. Face cover made of at least 3 layers is good. Don’t try thick cloth, you might not be able to breathe from it, and don’t use a very thin cloth, its useless to wear it.

Additionally don't use a face mask made up of stretchable cloth, it will increase pore size when stretched making it very less effective. Stretch your mask and look at any light source through it. If you can see light rays coming through holes in the fabric, your mask is almost useless. 

A bad face mask show hole
Image: Identification of unsafe face mask. A bad face mask shows small holes when stretched and looked upon at light source.

If you have already bought one such mask, it will be good if you stitch a cotton cloth inside it or preferably polypropylene cloth outside of it.

Face mask mistake 3: Touching your face mask

Please don’t touch the inner or outer surface of the face mask with bare hands. If you have to do it, say to tight the nose strip, please sanitize or soap-wash your hands before and after it. 
Always take off and ware mask holding from the strap of the face mask.

Face mask mistake 4: Sharing is not caring for face mask

Please don’t share your face mask with anyone especially not without washing sanitizing it properly. Even then, it's better not to share.

Face mask mistake 5: Washing or disinfecting in the wrong way 

Never wash a surgical mask or N95 mask. If it’s a clinical mask or N95 mask, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing with detergent or spraying with bleach/alcohol can drastically reduce its quality. The best way to decontaminate them is either using UVGI lamp, or giving moist heat in a cooker, rice maker, or microwave. Keep the mask at an elevated level so only steam but not the liquid reaches it as water will ruin the quality of the mask. Make sure to check instruction provided by mask maker brand if they can be heated or not. You can learn how to disinfect a face mask in the video below and in guidelines of CDC.

Video: Taiwan authority showing how to disinfect face mask using a rice maker. Taiwan was the first country that announced the spread of coronavirus in China.

Homemade masks made up of cloths should be washed with detergent daily after use.

Face mask mistake 6: Keeping used mask here and there

When you get back home, don't keep used mask on other surfaces such as a table or rack. You may cross-contaminate that surface. If it is a discardable mask, discard it after use. If you want to sterilize/wash it, keep directly in a vessel in which you will do so.

Face mask mistake 7: Using the same mask for the whole day

If you are in the high-risk zone, or in a crowded place, you must change your mask every 2-3 hour. Or the viral particles will accumulate on the outer surface and some may come in crossing the mask when your breath. If you are not going to much, especially not going in crowd, or there are not many COVID-19 positive cases nearby, you can use the same mask for a whole day. 

Face mask mistake 8: Wearing mask below nose or gap below the chin

Some people think that novel coronavirus goes trough mouth so they leave the nose open. This is utter stupidity. Please don't do this friend.

I met a well-educated man yesterday who had left a big gap below chin while wearing a very good quality N95 mask. And he was scared of getting an infection of coronavirus. When I mentioned him this mistake, he said then how will I breathe? The whole purpose of the mask is mainly breathing through it.

If you are also doing any of the above two mentioned things, please don't.

Face mask mistake 9: Reusing cloth to cover the face

It is observed in many developing and underdeveloped countries that people use cloth such as a handkerchief, Towel etc. when they go out. When they come back or when no one is around, they move it down or remove and keep in the pocket or somewhere. 

Now when the again go out or someone coms they just take that hanky or towel again and tie on the face. Now there is a very high chance that the surface that was outside before will be inside now. So whatever stuck on mask last time, will now directly go inside your mouth and nose. 

How to solve this problem?

a. If it's possible, change cloth after every use.

b. I agree that the upper step may not be possible for some people. Say for shopkeepers or people repeatedly going out. In such case, at least don't keep it in your pocket or table when you remove it, else it will contaminate your pocket or table. If you have to, remove the cloth from the side and hang it somewhere in a corner.

c. Put a mark on one side of the mask. Say a small design or something on the outer side so that you don't flip the side while wearing it again.

d. While removing and wearing it again, do clean your hands before and after touching it.

Face mask mistake 10: Thinking face mask will totally save you from coronavirus

Wearing a mask does not guarantee your safety. It reduces the chance of infection by a very large extent. So, physical distancing and hand hygiene must be followed.

Face mask mistake 11: Sliding down your mask to the chin

When you use a mask, you may get droplets landing on your face except for the place where mask or cloth is covering. This includes your head, hair and neck. If you slide you mask to neck/chin, the particles on the neck will go inside of the mask. Now if you put back your mask, you will directly inhale those particles

Face mask mistake 12: Using mask with valve

Just like other face masks, face mask with valve does save you from outside particles,  but they do not filter air you are breathing out. So it does not stop transmission. So avoid using such a mask for your social responsibility.

A few more pro-tips for the face mask usage

i. For comfort, avoid buying a face mask that has rubber/elastic that fits in your ear. With time, it will start to pain. Instead, use face cover that has tight enough band (not very tight, or it will cause headache) going to back of the head or a thread to tie the knot.
A comfortable face mask
Image: Face masks tied on back of the head are generally more comfortable

ii. Recently ex-Apple engineer founded Fix the mask. The yar showing the world how to fix your normal mask that there is no leakage. You can check their ideas in the link above. One such trick is just by using three simple rubber bands and anyone can make it in a home in a minute. Check it out:

iii. For men, it will be a good idea to keep a clean shave. Beard/moustache does not let your mask fit properly and air coming through hairs will not filter most of the droplets. Since it gives easy passage to air, most of the air will come through these gaps and not through the face cover.

World Health Organization’s (WHO) new guidelines for a homemade mask

On 5th June 2020, WHO released new guidelines on how to make a face mask at home during novel coronavirus pandemic. The homemade face mask should be made of at least three layers of clothes. The innermost layer should be a soft cloth such as cotton or cotton blends. The middle layer should preferably be made of water-repelling cloth such as polypropylene, or at least a later of cotton. The outer later should be strictly made of water-repelling cloth such as polypropylene or polyester or its blends. You can check it in the video below shared by WHO. This is strictly recommended for a common man and not for healthcare workers or anyone taking care of COVID-19 positive person as they come across a very heavy dose of virus and should use N95 mask.

Video: WHO released a video on the homemade mask with guidelines.

When to wear a face mask?

You are not supposed to wear face cover all day long. If you are in a public place, in-office where many people are around, at a relative’s/friend’s place or such places where people are coming from different places or there is a chance of coronavirus infection, you need to wear a mask. You do not need to wear a face mask in your home unless there is someone COVID-19 positive or someone having strong symptoms of COVID-19 in your home.

A myth about-face mask

One more misunderstanding that some people have is wearing any green cloth face mask will save them from coronavirus. This is likely because usually movies and TV shows used to show doctors wearing a green cloth mask. Please keep one thing in mind, the colour of cloth does not affect the virus. It is the material especially the density of threads that filters droplets.

Protect your eyes and whole face as well

Another mode of infection could be eyes. You cannot put a mask on the eyes. Wearing spectacles whenever you are in public is a good idea. Even if you don’t have an eye issue, use big plain specs or sunglasses when in public.

Whenever you return from a crowded place, it is best if you take a good bath including hair wash. If you are not keen on hair wash after return, you can use a cap or a hair cover. If you are out shopping on a bike, don’t remove your helmet.


In the time of coronavirus pandemic, take all the precaution properly, save your mouth, nose and eyes from possible infection. Keep washing/ sterilizing your hands, don't touch your face repeatedly and last but not the least maintain physical distancing. If you follow these properly, you may have a very low chance of getting an infection of coronavirus.

Thanks for the read, keep smiling and stay healthy.

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  1. Thanks for the information. I bought my face mask from market but never realized when I stretched it to wear, it was making pores. And it was not fitting well on my nose also. I was
    happily roaming with it outside. Many of us here are using this kind of mask. I'll try to make a new on.

    1. We are happy to know that information was useful. Please inform others who are doing such mistakes.
      Stay safe

    2. The information is very important and useful.Thanks.

    3. Mask has become a a part of our life This information is very important and useful to everyone . Thanks.

  2. If there are this many rules just for the mask, what is the use? I know, it sounds like I am whining, well I am.
    Thanks for the info. I HAVE been doing it wrong.
    No matter what we do, this thing is still out there. There’s always the chance of infection. Let’s beat this thing back. If we all cooperate, we can.


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