Face masks

  • Where there is community transmission, face masks can help prevent the risk of spreading or catching COVID-19.
  • Never share your face mask with others. Scarves and bandanas are not suitable to be used as face masks.
  • Face masks are not recommended for infants and children under 12 years of age.
When should I use a face mask?

Face masks are recommended as an extra precaution in areas where community transmission is occurring:

  • when physical distancing is difficult to maintain (e.g. on a bus or train or shopping centre)
  • for older people and people with existing medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes or respiratory illness.

Other protective measures, such as hand hygiene, staying home when unwell and physical distancing remain essential measures even when you are wearing a mask.

What are the different types of face mask?

How to put on and take off your face mask (PDF 1MB)

Single use surgical face masks – discard after use

Surgical masks are single use items and must be disposed after every use.

These are recommended for use if you:

  • are caring for someone with COVID-19,
  • have COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-9 or
  • are over 60 or
  • have underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, cancer etc.

If you have, or are suspected to have, COVID-19, you must wear a surgical mask if you cannot avoid being in close contact with someone, e.g. if you are self-isolating and need to visit a GP or hospital.

NB: N95 and P2 respirators are only recommended for healthcare workers or specific industries in specific circumstances.

Reusable fabric masks – wash after every use

Reusable fabric masks – buying and making guide (PDF 2MB)

Fabric masks should not be worn by healthcare workers or by people over 60 or with underlying medical conditions.

Fabric masks are used for source control. That is, they act as a barrier between your mouth and nose and the surrounding environment to protect those around you.

Fabric masks must be 3 layers. Each layer requires a different type of fabric.

These should be washed after every use, or when wet or visibly dirty. Wash with laundry detergent on the hottest setting (preferably at least 60 degrees C). Avoid using disinfectants to clean the mask because they may produce fumes that are harmful to inhale.

If you are unable to machine wash, wash in hot water with a laundry detergent then rinse thoroughly..

Make sure your fabric mask is dry before re-using.

Once dry, store your clean fabric masks in a disposable, sealable plastic bag to protect from contamination.

Over time, your fabric masks will need to be replaced. Replace your fabric mask if:

  • it no longer fits snugly
  • it starts to slide or fall off
  • there are any holes
  • you find you need to keep adjusting the fit
  • the material has started to wear or fray.
When can I take off my face mask?

Remove your face mask when you are away from other people. Remember to perform hand hygiene after removing your mask.

If using a surgical mask, dispose of it in the bin immediately after use.

If removing a reusable fabric mask, placed it in a sealed disposable plastic bag until it can be washed. Used fabric masks must be kept separate from clean fabric masks until they can be washed. Do not store used masks in the same bag as the clean ones.

If using your mask for prolonged periods, you may need more than one mask. Masks should be changed if they become wet or soiled.

Last reviewed: 02-10-2020

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Information about a service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace professional advice. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified professional for answers to their questions.

Coronavirus information helplines: 13 COVID (13 268 43). Interstate callers: 1800 595 206. International callers: +61 8 9118 3100.