Surgical masks are designed to be worn in one direction only. However, it can be difficult to know which way round a medical face mask should go. Should the blue side face out, or in? Some surgical masks are white all over, which way round should these white face masks go?
In this post, we’ll cover how to wear a surgical mask the correct way, and why it’s important to make sure you’re wearing it the correct way round.
WATCH: Which Way Round Should I Wear a Surgical Mask?
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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.
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 Mask Correctly
First of all, check the instructions if included. Otherwise, you can follow these simple rules to know how to wear your surgical mask:
1. Blue / Green Color Goes On the Outside
Typically, the fluid repellent layer of a surgical mask is colored side. That means the colored 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 all white, like this one.
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.
How to Wear Surgical Masks
Following these simple steps will ensure your surgical or medical mask is fitted properly:
- Place the elastic bands around your ears.
- Extend the surgical up above the nose and down to the chin. Make sure it fully covers the mouth, nose, and chin.
- Bend the metallic strip at the top of the mask over nose bridge. The surgical mask should sit snuggly to the face.
- Avoid touching the surgical mask after putting it on. If you do, wash your hands afterwards.
- Discard used masks in the garbage and wash your hands.
- 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.
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.
How I Protect Myself
Along with wearing masks, air purifiers with HEPA filters are also one of the best ways to stay safe from a variety of pollutants in our air including viruses and dangerous PM2.5. A recent CDC study confirmed significantly lower COVID-19 infection rates in schools that used HEPA air purifiers.
Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to artificially inflate the price of clean air.
Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, that use the same HEPA filters (that filter 95-99.5% of particles of size 0.3 microns) for a fraction of the cost of big companies.