Your non-medical cloth mask: What you should know
Cloth masks are non-medical masks. Wearing a non-medical mask does not replace important measures such as physical distancing and frequent hand-washing. Wearing a non-medical mask in the community may reduce the spread of COVID-19 because when an infected individual wears a mask, it reduces the chances of infecting others when physical distancing (>2 metres) is not possible. However, it has not been proven that wearing such a mask protects the person wearing it and is not a replacement for physical distancing and other infection prevention procedures.
Each member of the University of Toronto community is being provided with 2 (two) non-medical cloth masks. In May 2020, based on the public health guidance available at that time, the University of Toronto started offering branded, two-layer non-medical masks to all students, faculty members, staff members and librarians for personal use. Although the Public Health Agency of Canada suggested in November 2020 that non-medical masks have three layers to provide added protection, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and Public Health Ontario also clarified that existing two-layer masks can still be used and do not need to be discarded if they are well maintained and well fitting. The University of Toronto two-layer masks are still available for pick-up, if you wish. For the latest information on the University non-medical mask, please refer to: https://www.utoronto.ca/utogether/where-to-pick-up-face-mask.
Individuals wearing non-medical masks, whether provided by the University of Toronto or not, should clean their masks regularly and replace them periodically following the instructions of the manufacturer and advice of public health authorities. If you wear a non-medical cloth mask while commuting, please ensure that you change masks when arriving on campus.
We respect the preferences of our fellow community members. There may be individuals who do not wear masks for personal or medical reasons. In some cases, individuals may be impacted in their ability to wear masks by personal characteristics, including religious affiliation, disability, etc. In some cases, accommodations may be required. Please contact the AODA Office for support in such cases.
How to wear and care for your non-medical cloth mask
Putting on your cloth mask
- Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before putting on any mask.
- Keep hair away from your face.
- Ensure the branded side of the mask is facing outwards. Place the mask over your mouth and nose snugly, and below the chin. There should be no gaps. Fasten the mask loops securely around your ears. Adjust the nose piece.
- Be sure it fits comfortably and that it’s easy to breath in order to avoid adjusting the mask while wearing it.
- Avoid touching your face and mask while wearing it.
- Continue to wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer often, especially if you accidentally touch your mask.
Removing your cloth mask
- Change your mask as soon as it gets damp or dirty or if you remove it due to breathability, comfort, and safety issues.
- Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing your mask.
- Remove the mask without touching the outside of the mask, your eyes, nose and mouth. Hold by the earloops.
- After taking the mask off, put mask directly in the laundry or a lined bin to be cleaned. If you are not at home, place it in a clean plastic bag until you are able to wash the mask. Do not put it in your pocket.
- If re-using the mask during the same day, cover with a tissue and store in a clean plastic bag or container.
- Clean any surfaces that a dirty mask touches.
Cloth masks don’ts
- Don’t leave your mask around your neck, hanging from your ear, or on your forehead.
- Don’t share non-medical cloth masks.
- Don’t use the mask if it’s damp or dirty.
- Don’t use the mask if it impairs your vision or interferes with tasks. Discuss with your supervisor or academic lead if you plan to wear the mask in the presence of biological agents*, hazardous, combustible/flammable chemicals and ignitions sources.
Non-medical cloth mask limitations
Cloth masks are not medical-grade supplies and are not regulated like medical masks and respirators. Their use poses a number of limitations including:
- They have not been tested to recognized standards.
- The fabrics are not the same as what is used in surgical masks or respirators.
- The edges are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth.
- They may not provide complete protection against virus-sized particles.
- They are not recommended for people who has trouble breathing, who cannot remove the mask without assistance or for children under the age of 2 years.
Caring for your UofT non-medical cloth mask
Wash your mask after each use or at least daily.
The following care instructions are based on a combination of public health advice and preserving the mask’s colour:
*CL2 Biosafety labs: additional precautions in donning reusable masks:
- Face coverings used in lab should not be used outside of containment in common areas (hallways, restrooms, cafeterias, administrative areas, etc);
- Face coverings should not be used more than once in the lab – used face coverings may be contaminated from lab and reapplying them to the face introduces additional risk;
- Face coverings can be laundered at home between uses providing they are transported home in a closed plastic bag and handled with caution.
Updated: August 27, 2020