The Standard 3 Layer Utility Face Mask are single use/disposable with a non-woven inner layer which is soft and comfortable on the skin.
“Where there is significant community transmission (as determined by jurisdictional public health authorities), you may choose, or be required to, wear a mask. If physical distancing is difficult to maintain, for example on public transport, covering your face with a mask can provide some extra protection.” – Australian Department of Health
Different Types of Face Masks and Their Uses
There are lots of different types of face masks, intended for different settings. It is important to understand the differences between types of face masks and what they do, so you can pick the right one for your needs.
Disposable/Utility face masks: disposable face masks are loose-fitting, single use masks which are generally not TGA- or FDA-approved. These face masks can be very useful for the general public in reducing the spread of respiratory droplets from people who may be sick. Disposable masks are a good mask to wear when going to the grocery store, getting on public transport, or going for a walk during times of peak illness.
Cloth masks: cloth face masks are reusable masks or face coverings made from a washable fabric such as cotton or denim. These face masks can be very useful for the general public in reducing the spread of respiratory droplets from people who may be sick. These respiratory droplets are released by coughing, sneezing or talking and can contain respiratory viruses and bacteria like the coronavirus. Cloth face masks can work to catch these droplets to stop them from spreading to others, but may not be as effective as disposable face masks. These masks must be washed daily before reusing to be effective. They should be made from 3 layers of a mix of breathable fabrics, or two layers with a replaceable filter. Not all cloth face masks come with a filter, but they are still safe and effective if they are washed after each use.
Surgical face masks: surgical masks are loose-fitting, 3-layered, disposable medical face masks. These face masks are generally used by medical staff to help contain any viruses, bacteria or other germs they might spread to others via respiratory droplets, such as the coronavirus. Surgical face masks can catch these droplets to stop them from spreading to others. These masks can only be used once, and are suitable for medical clinics and consultants.
P2, N95 and KN95 Respirator Masks: these types of face masks are all high particulate respirator masks. P2 masks are graded by an Australian/New Zealand standard, N95 masks by an American standard, and KN95 masks by a Chinese standard. However, P2, N95 and KN95 masks objectively achieve the same level of protection. They are tight fitting, single-use face masks that protect the wearer inhaling or spreading air-borne particles by filtering them out. They are specialty masks designed for virus protection. These masks are not recommended for general use, and should only be used in medical settings or work sites where protection from airborne particles is needed. These masks are certified to filter at least 94% (P2) or 95% (N95 and KN95) of airborne particles, including viruses like the coronavirus.
How often should you wear a mask?
States and governments have made different recommendations regarding how often and where you should wear a face mask. During peak illness including the coronavirus pandemic, it has been recommended that the general public wear a face mask or face covering for virus protection whenever they are in public, particularly in crowded areas such as supermarkets. Face masks should also be replaced approximately every 3-4 hours, or when they become damp.
How to safely apply, take off and dispose of a 3 Layer Utility Face Mask
If you wear a face mask, it is important to make sure you apply and take off the mask correctly, and safely. You may need specific training to wear a face mask if you are using a P2, N95, or KN95 respirator.
To apply a face mask safely, follow the following steps:
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting on the mask
- Holding the top edge with the absorbent side facing you (this is usually white for disposable masks), place the mask over your face, avoiding touching the front of the mask. Hook the ear loops around you ears, or tie any straps behind your head. If your mask has adjustable ear straps, you can change them now or before you place your mask on.
- Pull the bottom of the mask over your chin, to make sure the face mask covers your mouth and nose with no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask whilst wearing it, and clean your hands if you do
- Replace the mask as soon as it is damp, and do not re-use disposable masks
To take off a mask safely, follow the following steps:
- Remove the mask from behind by the straps or ear loops – do not touch the front of the mask
- Discard the mask immediately into the general waste, preferably into a closed bin. If using a reusable mask or cloth face mask, place it in a sealed bag to take home and wash
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser