Which Way Round Should a Surgical Face Mask Go?

Surgical masks are designed to be worn in one direction only. However, it can be difficult to know which way round the face mask should go. Should the blue side face out, or in? Some face masks are white all over, which way round should these white face masks go?

In this post, we’ll cover the correct way to wear a surgical face mask, and why it’s important to make sure you’re wearing it the correct way round.


Most Surgical Masks Are Made of Three Layers

Surgical masks are most commonly made up of three layers. These are:

1. Outer fluid-repellent layer: Typically colored blue or green, this layer repels fluid, helping to reduce the chance that viruses and bacteria from the air attach to the mask.

2. High efficiency filter middle layer: The middle layer is what does the hard work in capturing viruses and bacteria. Any particles which get past the outside layers are filtered here.

3. Absorbent layer: The inner layer captures and absorbs moisture, reducing the chance of any mucus or bacteria from leaving the mask when the wearer coughs or talks.

surgical face masks are made up of 3 layers - outer blue layer, middle and inner white layer

With this information in hand, it now should be easier to determine just which way round to wear a surgical mask.

A Simple Guide To Wearing A Surgical Face Mask Correctly

First of all, if you have the instruction manual then you should check it out. If not, or your surgical mask didn’t come with any instructions, you can follow these simple rules:

1. Blue / Green Color Goes on the Outside

Typically, the fluid repellent layer of a surgical mask is colored side. That means, the coloured side should face out. Think of it this way: You want to show off your colors!

If your mask has the same color on both sides, move on to the next rule.

2. Soft side towards the face

Some masks have the same for both sides of the masks. Some are even white all, like this one.

Which way round to wear surgical face mask mask that is white on inside and white on outside

For these masks that are white on both sides, you can use the feel of the material to determine which way round to wear the mask. The side that is softer to touch is the moisture absorbent layer and goes towards your face. The rougher layer is the moisture repellent layer, that faces outwards.


Don’t Use Mask Ear Loops as an Indicator for Mask Direction

It may seem like a smart idea to use the straps as an indication of which way to wear a surgical mask. We suggest not to! In four out of the five surgical masks we checked, one had the straps that attached to the outside layer, and four had the straps that attached to the inside layer.

Direction of strap loop on surgical mask not useful for indicating right way to wear mask


WATCH: The Right Way Round To Wear A Surgical Face Mask


How to Wear Surgical Masks

Following these simple steps will ensure your surgical mask is fitted properly:

  1. Place the elastic bands around your ears.
  2. Extend the surgical up above the nose and down to the chin. Make sure it fully covers the mouth, nose, and chin.
  3. Bend the metallic strip at the top of the mask over nose bridge. The surgical mask should sit snuggly to the face.
  4. Avoid touching the surgical mask after putting it on. If you do, wash your hands afterwards.
  5. Discard used masks in the garbage and wash your hands.
  6. Standard practice is to replace surgical masks after each use. But if supplies are limited, replace masks that are dirty or damaged.

A handy guide from the Singaporean government explains the steps for wearing a surgical mask.

Directions for wearing a surgical face mask


Does Surgical Mask Orientation Affect Its Ability to Capture Viruses?

We ran tests to find out if wearing a surgical mask the wrong way around affects its ability to filter virus-sized articles. The short answer: it does, but not much.

Read more: Does the way round I wear my mask affect its filtration efficiency?


Bottom Line: Which Way Round Does a Surgical Mask Go?

For most masks, the blue or green colored side faces out, and the lighter – often white – side faces in. If your face mask doesn’t have colors, make sure the soft side faces in and the rough side faces out.


Correct and incorrect way to wear a surgical face mask with blue and white side out and in

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