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A Complete Guide On Use, Reuse & Disposal Of Masks

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7 Min Read

The simple thought of being stuck in a crowd without a proper mask can give us goosebumps. From being a nearly a non-existential household accessory, masks have become one of the key determinants of the COVID-19 outbreak. Simply put, it’s the one personal guard, we feel quite unsafe without!

As the entire world struggles to get through the unprecedented pandemic crisis, each one of us is introduced to a new way of life. We strictly avoid gatherings and have a more restricted pattern in stepping out of our house.

These measures are more important of the elderly, and the kids, considering they are highly prone to the infection and its severe symptoms.

If we look back into the times when the Coronavirus was unknown to humankind, masks were still a common sight in many countries like Japan. It was considered as “common courtesy” especially if the person is feeling even slightly under the weather (and showing symptoms of cough or cold). More explanation on this in a minute.

So how inevitable is the mask? Find this and all the other answers below!

When to use masks?

This is quite a controversial and confusing question in 2020! We have been hearing differing opinions and advice, coming from all around the globe. Nevertheless, we can all vouch for the fact that it is indeed very unsettling! According to the latest studies, it has been proven that using a mask reduces the spread of novel Coronavirus by 40%.

The Indian government has also made it mandatory for people to put on a mask in all public places. This is simply because the virus can be spread via three gateways – your mouth, nose, and eyes.

The carriers of coronavirus spread it further via their exit gates – mouth or nose, or if they touch something. For the others, the virus can enter via mouth, nose, and eyes. Making it inevitable to mask it all up!

Contagious diseases such as Common Cold and seasonal Flu that spread by coughing, sneezing, and even breathing are another reason why you need masks.

Such symptoms are primarily responsible for spewing droplets that can travel up to six feet and even more.

In addition to the aforementioned possibilities, the major threat is the identification of the virus carrier. As the number of patients increases by the day, we can never know who could be tested positive or who could have come in touch with the virus. Therefore, we can very well state that a mask is our best bet to contain the spread.

While stepping outside your house, going to the grocery store, ATM, or any place with a crowd, it needs to be a mandatory practice to mask up! You can always carry one in your pocket, purse, or car.

It’s like your guard from the unseen and is much easier to use compared to many other preventive measures.

Why did the Japanese use Masks even before the pandemic had hit?

Most of us might are aware of the fact that Japan has almost eliminated the disease without any lockdown. The country is leading by example and even has the lowest test rate amongst all the developed countries. They didn’t deploy the general playbook of preventions and restrictions to combat the pandemic. Their businesses have been fully functional, and no exclusive health centres were established.

Surgical mask business has been a multi-million dollar industry in Japan, for years now. Several companies have been developing dry and incredibly cool masks for the citizens.

This clearly depicts how prevention can be far more effective than cure.

As stated earlier, people who have come down with a sickness prefer wearing a mask to protect the others and contain the spread. But for over a decade, most people began wearing the masks to prevent themselves from possible infection too. Therefore, wearing a mask became a common practice purely for hygiene purposes.

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The country did not wait for an incurable viral respiratory disease to hit the world, so they can start protecting themselves from possible infections. This is something we all can learn as Japan leads by example.

How to make a mask at home?

While quarantining, you may feel anxious while stepping out of your home even if it’s to buy a mask. But don’t worry! Preventive masks can be easily created at home. All you need is a little bit of clean cloth and some DIY skills. Let’s see how we can make a mask at home.

1. The Sewn Cotton Mask

The Sewn cotton mask can easily be made at home. It’s not as effective as N95 mask but still offers considerable protection against catching the infection. If you’re facing troubles getting hold of a professional mask, the Sewn Cotton mask is one of the best alternatives.

The materials you will need:

– Cotton fabric (old t-shirt, bedsheets, cloth napkins etc )

– Elastic

– Scissors

– Needle and thread

Step-by-step method:

  1. Cut out two rectangles from the cloth, measuring ten by six inches each.
  2. Place two thin elastics on the corners of the smaller side.
  3. Now, fold half an inch from each side. A little smaller from the longer ones.
  4. Now stitch up the sides tucking the elastics in.
  5. Stretch the elastics, and check wherever another stick might be needed.

2. No-stitch mask

This is another DIY mask that you can create simply by using supplies from your home. Unlike the Sewn mask, this mask doesn’t need any stitches to be made.

The material you will need:

– Cotton handkerchief or scarf

– Hair ties or elastic

Step by step method:

  1. Lay the handkerchief/scarf of the tabletop and fold it from top and bottom.
  2. Make another fold from the centre, upside down.
  3. Slip one hair tie on the other two sides and make a fold there. (Create an ear loop)
  4. Tuck the overlapping sides into each other so that it doesn’t slip out.

This is the quickest and the easiest method to make a homemade mask. As mentioned before, please note that these homemade masks are not definitive replacements for N-95/99 or surgical masks. These are purely to be your go-to protective mask for your casual outdoor visits.

Types of Masks

1. The widely used Surgical masks

These are slightly loose masks, mostly in light blue and white colour. These have been FDA approved and are proven to protect the wearer against large splashes, sprays, and droplets. During these COVID-19 times, we are witnessing these masks are widely worn across the country, however, these are not effective to protect the person from tiny germs.

2. The much trusted N-95 masks

These tightly fitted masks have been evaluated and tested against both large droplets and tiny particle aerosols. They are capable of suspending 95% or even more such small particles.

3. The customized cotton masks

Like the one we just made, customized masks are a perfect cover for regular use during outdoor visits. This is no comparison of the medically approved surgical and N-95 masks, and cannot be used in hospitals.

How to Put On a Mask?

We have already established the fact that wearing a mask is cardinal to limit the spread of the virus. To be completely protected in the pandemic, it has to be masked up properly, and there’s a method involved. Here is a step to step guide to help you understand:

Step 1:

First things first, make sure your hands are clean before touching your mask. Properly washed, dried, and sanitized. Ideally, one should scrub the hands for 20-seconds.

Step 2:

Check the mask for any holes or damages, once you take it out of the dispenser.

Step 3:

Determine the top and the bottom of the masks, believe it or not, many people wrongly wear the mask upside down.

Step 4:
Depending on the type of the mask you are using, here’s how it needs to be placed on the face:

  • If the mask is with ties that go around the neck:
    Bring the mask close to your face, take the ties over the head and tighten the strap up. Make sure that the mask is properly fitted on the nose.
  • If the mask has ear loops:
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This one is much easier, make sure you hold the mask by the ear loops and put the loops around each other. Don’t forget to cover the entire nose and mouth

  • If the mask has bands:

For this one, you need to hold the mask from the nosepiece or top of the mask, the top string of your mask goes right on the crown of your head. Now you need to tighten it, to get a proper fit. The bottom string goes on the nape of the neck.

Step 5:

Pinch the stiff edge of the mask over your nose so it forms a perfect fit for the bridge of your nose.

Step 6:

Make sure the mask covers your chin. Doing so will make sure that the entire mouth is properly sealed.

How to take off a mask?

To take off a mask, do not touch its mouth. Remove it from the bands.

After taking the mask off, if its one time use, make sure you dispose-it off in a closed bin. Post disposal, do watch your hands with the alcohol-based hand soap and water.

How to best re-use the masks?

For the surgical masks, it is not recommended to use them over and over again. Since most of those are rather disposable. In case, you choose to do so, in the wake of the hour where the nation is running short of personal preventive equipment, it is highly recommended to take good care of it.

If the inner lining gets moist or the mask is soiled, do not reuse it. After you carefully remove the mask and sanitize your hands, place it in a safe storage spot.

In the case of N-95 masks, it can be stored in a plastic box that will have to be cleaned maintaining the highest order of precaution on a daily basis. When reusing, keep it in the dry atmosphere for 4-5 days, considering the COVID-19 virus requires a host to survive on and on different substances for a varying number of days/hours.

How to dispose of Masks?

It’s a fine possibility that you will use multiple masks in your daily routine. Most masks can be re-used but it’ll be smart to dispose of a mask as it starts to wear out. Here is how you dispose it without further infection.

  • Remove it carefully

The most important thing to remember before you dispose of a mask is that you shouldn’t touch its surface. Try to take it off by tugging at the sides gently. In case you touch it by accident, wash your hands with a sanitizer.

  • Secure the mask

Put the removed mask in a plastic bag preferably with a zip lock. This is done to prevent the mask from spreading the infection into the air or any other surface that it may come in contact with.

  • Dispose of a Waste Disposal Unit

Don’t have the mask lie around in your house. Put it in a waste disposal unit that will eventually carry it away from you. Make sure you wash your hands after it has been disposed of.

When To Use And When Not To Use A Mask?

It’s probably the most debated question but an equally important one. Depending on your usage criteria, you can help balance the supply of masks.

When to Use?

  • Whenever you are heading out or someone visits your home.
  • Whenever you are visiting a hospital or a clinic.
  • If you’re going to your office for any kind of work.
  • If you’re coming in contact with a person who has symptoms of flu.

When not to use?

  • staying inside your home on a daily basis.
  • walking around your house while there is no one around.
  • Not interacting with anyone from outside of your family.

Conclusion

By now, we can safely establish that in these times, it is a nightmare to be standing in a crowd- minus the masks. It is the central variable that determines our safety from the pandemic that has brought hell in this world and has stopped the unstoppable. Apart from sanitizers, gloves, and other ‘personal protective equipment’ (PPE), this one is the most basic one.

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