It is the only thing everyone has been talking about for the past few weeks (must have heard people mentioning N95!), with the whole world coming to a standstill because of it and major countries completely succumbing to it, either sooner or later. Yes, COVID-19!

Weeks ago the masses had started hoarding items all around the globe, be it food, household or medicinal supplies. The major items that made it to the headlines were sanitisers and masks. Both had temporarily disappeared off market shelves, only to reappear again to a gargantuan, endless demand.

But while sanitizers are consumed with use, masks have to be taken care of in a prescribed manner. In fact, used masks are supposed to be treated as medical waste which are potentially very dangerous in their capability to spread the virus.

So, what are the guidelines to deal with these face masks?

Well, there can be different types of masks and the ways to deal with them can differ amongst themselves.

So, there are 3 different types of masks:

  • Cloth mask;
  • Surgical mask; and,
  • N95 masks.

While putting on a new mask is safe anyways, the challenge is to make people aware about the removal and disposal.

Even in a developed country like Singapore, awareness regarding mask disposal amongst the general public is very low, so much so that used masks were thrown in public areas like daily waste, be it in elevators, on pavements etc.

What is the right way to remove and dispose of these masks?

Well, while the method of removal of any mask should only be through the strings behind the ears, without touching the inner and outer surfaces (germ hotspots), the method of disposal changes with type.

  • For cloth masks, regular washing with disinfectants and proper drying is enough.
  • For surgical masks, one should fold the mask along the outer surface and then give it a second fold (making it in a roll), and then slipping it into a plastic bag and then into garbage.
  • For N95, the method is similar to surgical masks, except no folding is required. One can directly slip it into a plastic bag and then into garbage.

Subtle tips:

  • Do not reuse, except for cloth masks;
  • Wash hands after touching any kind of mask for any purpose;
  • Try to keep mask waste segregated from regular waste;
  • Don’t leave used masks in the open or on any surface; and,
  • NEVER wash and use surgical/N95 masks.

Follow guidelines, stay safe