Double Masking: What You Need to Know to Make It Effective

Wearing a mask has long been viewed as one of the more effective ways to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus, but that depends in large part on how you wear it. By now, we have all heard about how to properly wear a mask (i.e., covering the nose and mouth), but there is more to wearing a mask correctly.

With more contagious variants of COVID-19 on the rise, public health agencies have released new guidance about masking. Specifically, many health experts have recommended double masking to better protect against infection. Here is how you can double mask correctly to help protect yourself and others.

What Kind of Mask?

There are many different types of masks available, especially at this point in the pandemic. The most common advice from medical professionals is to use a surgical mask under a cloth mask for the best protection. Keep in mind, though, that N95 medical-grade masks cannot be worn on top of each other, nor should you wear two surgical masks. These options would simply not be effective. Also, remember that flipping the order does not work. So, a surgical mask over a cloth mask would not provide any additional benefit to you.

Wearing a cloth mask on top will protect the surgical mask from respiratory droplets, and you can also wash the cloth mask so it can be used multiple times. This process of double masking is similar to early advice from the CDC that noted that masks with multiple layers or filters were more effective than a single layer mask.

Check the Fit

According to research from the CDC, cloth masks will block around 50 percent of particles that come from a cough, while a mask that is knotted and tucked will block nearly 77 percent. What this shows us is that the fit of your mask is essential to protection. Surgical masks are often “one size fits all,” so making adjustments to help with the fit is always helpful. Take the ear loops back behind the ear and knot them to make the fit tighter, then make sure to fit the mask snugly over your nose and pull it down to tuck it under your chin.

Don’t Forget to Wash

Be sure to wash any cloth masks you wear as well. You should ideally have a clean cloth mask to use each day; avoid re-wearing masks on multiple days. Take your mask and toss it in the laundry at the end of the day so you remember to wash it!