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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Wear and Care

How to put your face mask on, take it off, and care for it

Cleanliness is key to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Keeping your face mask clean when you put it on and take it off takes a few simple, important steps.

Here are some tips to keeping your face mask clean while putting it on and take off.

Putting It On

It’s important not to contaminate your face mask while you are putting it on. Follow these three steps to stay safe:

Illustration of covering the face and nose with cloth face cover
Illustration of using hand sanitizer to clean hands
Step 1. Before you put it on, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
Step 2. Cover your mouth and nose with the face mask. Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the cloth face mask. It should fit snugly, but comfortably on your face. You should be able to breathe without restriction.
Step 3. Avoid touching the covering while you are wearing it. If you do need to adjust it, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water before and after touching the face mask.

Taking It Off

You are doing your part to protect your community and co-workers by wearing your face mask! Now, let’s make sure you protect yourself while taking it off. Follow these three steps:
Illustration of removing the cloth face cover 
Illustration of hand washing with soap and water
Step 1. Before you take it off, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub for at least 30 seconds.
Step 2. Start from the back and pull your face mask forward. Do not touch the front of your face mask. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing your cloth face mask. Once you have taken it off, put it in the laundry hamper or straight into the washing machine.
Step 3. Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub – again!

Caring for It

Please wash your face mask after every use.  Here's how to keep it clean!

Illustration of a bottle of detergent
Illustration of dryer
Illustration of a trash can
Step 1. Wash it using normal laundry products. If needed, you may use non-chlorine bleach – but you don’t need to make a special trip to the store to buy some. The face mask you received contains materials that help prevent the growth of viruses and germs. To avoid damaging the face mask, do not add chemicals or disinfectants when you wash the face mask.
Step 2. Tumble dry on high heat. Thoroughly drying the face mask on high heat is very important.
Step 3. Keep track of how many times you wash your face mask.  Throw it into your regular trash bin after your face mask has been washed 15 times. Then, get or make a new face mask.


  • This page last reviewed: August 05, 2020