3 May 2020

Updated 12.10.2020

The mask must cover the mouth and nose and it must not be touched during use. Choose a mask that you can breathe through and that fits your face well.

When using a cloth face mask, remember that putting on and removing the face mask must be done carefully in order for a soiled mask to not cause a risk of infection. If you take off and put on a mask repeatedly, pathogens from the outer surface of the mask and your hands can end up on the inside of the mask and subsequently enter your respiratory tract.

Poor physical condition, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases and advanced age can contribute to a person being too weak to use a face mask properly, or their health problems may be exacerbated by the use of a mask. Do not push the idea of wearing a mask on anyone. You simply cannot know whether using a face mask will be safe for any given user.

No mask should be put on a small child. It is difficult to get a mask to stay on the face of a child who is moving around, and it will not be beneficial for them. At worst, the mask with its straps can even cause a choking hazard for the child, if the mask falls off the face and the straps get tangled.

Tips for making a face mask

  • Make the mask from thin, tightly woven cloth but make sure the mask is not too dense. If the breathing resistance of the mask is too high, it will be too difficult to breathe through it. This will also cause the carbon dioxide levels in the breathed air to become too high.
  • If the cloth is very dense, a single layer is enough. Use a maximum of two layers of tightly woven cloth. Test how well you are able to breathe through the material of your choice.
  • Fleece should not be used for making masks. Studies have shown that it can break down the droplets originating in the respiratory tract and increase the number of airborne aerosols of respiratory secretions.
  • Also note that the material should be such that it can be washed at 90°C or boiled for a short period and it must withstand washing at 60°C.
  • The face mask must cover the mouth and nose and it must stay on the face well. Any part of the mask must not be unnecessarily tight. The better the top edge of the mask fits, the less foggy glasses will become.
  • A cloth face mask made by someone else can be made smaller, for example, by shortening the straps or sowing a fold at the bottom edge.
  • Wash the mask before using.

Checklist for mask use

  • Have enough masks with you for the day to be able to use a clean mask every time you put one on.
  • Always carry with you hand sanitizer and a plastic bag for transporting used masks to be washed.
  • Wash your hands before putting on a clean mask.
  • Don’t touch the face mask while wearing it.
  • Don’t drink or eat while using a mask.
  • If you touch the surface of the mask during use, wash or disinfect your hands before and after.
  • Wash your hands before taking off the mask.
  • When you take off the mask, only touch the straps. Don’t touch the outer surface of the mask itself.
  • Wash or disinfect your hands after taking off your mask.

Keeping the mask clean

  • Wash your cloth face mask using a hot cycle of at least 60°C, but preferably 90°C or boil it for five minutes in water with a small amount of detergent. Rinse the boiled mask with clean water. Dry the mask in a place with fresh air.
  • If you wash your masks in the washing machine, keep the machine clean. You can find the cleaning instructions from the instruction manual of the washing machine or from a package of washing machine cleaning agent available in stores.
  • Do not keep used masks in a plastic bag for long so that the microbes accumulated in the masks during use do not start to reproduce.
  • Put the bag for used masks in mixed waste always after use in order to not contaminate your hands, belongings or clean masks with its microbes.
  • Put clean, fully dried masks in a clean plastic bag for their next use.

Remember safety distances – a face mask is only added protection

When using a mask, remember good hand hygiene, avoiding physical and close contacts as well as touching your face, nose and mouth. Stay home when ill.

Homemade face masks are not official respiratory protective equipment

Face masks that do not comply with regulations that ensure their protectiveness and the safety of their use may not be called respirators or surgical masks and no claims may be made about their protective properties. The requirements are part of our legislation and they are based on EU Regulation 2016/425 on personal protective equipment and EU Regulation 2010/629 on medical devices.  The more detailed technical specifications are documented in standards EN 149 and EN 14683.

Check when you should wear a mask

Recommendation on the use of face masks for citizens (THL)

How to assess the risk of COVID-19 infections at the workplace? (FIOH)

Face masks at the workplace in FInnish (FIOH)

Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare face mask recommendation (THL)

Further information: viestinta@ttl.fi

The guidelines of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) are drawn up together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (SMAH) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. We also follow the publications of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), COVID-19 

World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus