How to Wear Surgical Mask Properly? Blue or White on Outside?

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 be outward or inward? And what about those all-white surgical masks?

In this article, 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?

How To Wear Your Surgical Mask Correctly - Effects on Performance

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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.

Surgical mask three layers blue outside white inside

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

How to Wear Surgical Mask Properly?

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 or white on 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.

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.

Read More: Are Wet Masks Less Effective?

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

Read More: How Effective Are Surgical Masks in Filtering Out Dangerous PM2.5?

How to Wear Surgical Masks

Following these simple steps will ensure your surgical or medical 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?

How to Significantly Improve Surgical Mask Performance

N95 masks are one of the best-performing masks on the market, but they come at a higher cost compared to surgical masks and have seen shortages in the past. So can you make your own DIY N95 mask? A recent study showed that simply using rubberbands to improve the fit of surgical masks can improve a surgical mask’s performance to the N95 standard.

BONUS: 6 Amazing, Underrated Health Benefits of Masks

Empirical research shows strong evidence that wearing a mask can actually impact your health in a huge way.

Read More: The 6 Amazing Health Benefits of Masks

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.

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


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. HEPA filters can significantly lower the risk of a variety of deadly diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure.

Read More: Four Steps to Choosing the Best Air Purifier

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《How to Wear Surgical Mask Properly? Blue or White on Outside?》有11条评论

  1. Why did it have to be a whole article to say what color needs to be on the outside. Could have just gone to the point

    • As the article explains, unfortunately color can’t be used in every circumstance to tell which way round the mask goes! This article covers other important scenarios which we couldn’t leave out. Having said that, we’ve just added a video to the start of this article which explains everything you need to know in just over 2 minutes!

  2. The way I was taught: the pleats face up on the inside. With the nose wire up, the pleats on the inside face up to help catch the spittle etc, and the pleats on the outside will face down to help shed outside contaminates.

  3. Thank you! Excellent info, and well presented. We regular folk don’t necessarily know this stuff…but I guess we all need to know now.

  4. Everyone should be aware that the lungs are much like the dust bag of a vacuum cleaner. The problem is that you are stuck with it for life and cannot replace it if it gets filled with dust. Once airborne minute and mostly invisible particulates get into them, they stay in your lungs forever and can cause all kinds of serious diseases including cancer even decades down the road. Many people ignore the harm, as it is invisible and not immediate, kind of out of sight, out of mind. Young kids and people should especially be cautious of this. It won’t be a bad idea to wear an appropriate mask whenever you’re exposed to a dusty environment or workplace, even only momentarily. Don’t neglect the preciousness of your lungs. This is just my unqualified opinion.

  5. Your description is confusing. Your saying the rough or white side should be worn out and the soft or blue side in…but the masks I have are considered surgical, and the soft side IS the blue side. If I had to wear this mask more than a few minutes at a time, the white side would be very irritating. Maybe the batch I purchased was made incorrectly – either way, the percentage of particles captured wearing it incorrectly isn’t enough to make me be uncomfortable…and I am no surgeon so there is that, too.

  6. The pleats are another clue. Imagine you are doing surgery, and your patient springs a leak and sprays bodily fluid at your mask. You want the pleats facing in the right direction so that the fluid won’t pool up inside them. If the mask also has a nose bridge wire, then the wire obviously goes over your nose, and that together with the pleats leaves only one possible way to wear the mask.

  7. The seam for the bands are like a tag in your clothes they should be on inside not outside!
    Very confusing for people with common sense.

    • Hi Faye, Song here.
      You are right. It is confusing. That could be another possible reason that we do not suggest to use the seam as an indication of which way to wear a surgical mask.



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