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Face masks. I protect you, you protect me

Wearing a face mask protects you and others from the spread of the coronavirus. It is one of the healthy reflexes that protects us all from the virus. You use a face mask to cover your nose and mouth. When you sneeze, cough or talk, droplets fly around. The face mask blocks the droplets. That way, there is less risk of making someone sick. In other words, wearing a face mask is primarily about protecting others.

Where do you wear a face mask?

Wearing a face mask is compulsory

  • on public transport from the age of 12. You wear it from the moment you enter the station or stop.
  • For contact professions and their customers.
  • For restaurant and catering staff.
  • for customers of catering establishments, except when they are sitting at their own table.
  • In shops and shopping centres.
  • in shopping streets, on markets, flea markets and fairs and in any crowded private or public place. Check the website of the city or municipality for more information.
  • in cinemas, theatres, concert halls and conference rooms, auditoria, places of worship and reflection, museums and libraries.
  • In casinos and amusement arcades;

Wearing a face mask does not replace the 6 golden rules to protect yourself and others:

  • Respect the hygiene rules
  • Prefer to do your activities outdoors
  • Think about vulnerable people
  • Keep your distance (1.5m)
  • Limit your close contacts
  • Follow the rules for gatherings

Wearing face masks

Wearing a face mask only helps if you put it on/take it off, wear it, wash it and store it correctly. So keep this in mind.

Putting on the face mask

  • First wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Then put on your face mask. Only touch the ribbon or elastic band.
  • Put the mask over your nose first. Attach the top ribbon securely.
  • Pull the mask over your chin. Attach the bottom ribbon.
  • Your nose, mouth and chin should be under the mask. There should be no opening at the sides.

Wearing the face mask

  • Are you wearing the face mask? Do not touch it any more.
  • Is your mask not on properly? Then touch only the sides and adjust it.
  • Do not continually take your mask on and off.

Taking off the face mask

  • Only touch the ribbon or elastic band.
  • Have you taken it off? Then wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do you need to take off the mask for a moment? For example, to drink something. Then place it in a clean spot or put it in a bag that lets air through. Then clean the spot where you placed the mask.

When should you use a new face mask?

  • Use a new face mask every 8 hours.
  • Is the mask dirty or damp? Then use a new mask straight away.
  • Do you need to talk a lot? Use a new face mask every 4 hours. For example: for a teacher in the classroom. How do you wash a face mask?
  • Place used face masks in a sealed cloth bag. Wash the bag with the mask.
  • Wash it with detergent in the washing machine at 60°C with the rest of the laundry. Please note: The free face mask that you can pick up at the pharmacy has an antibacterial layer. This layer cannot be washed at 60°C and cannot be ironed either. You need to wash these face masks by hand at a maximum temperature of 30°C, for no more than 30 washes. You can find more information here.
  • Or boil it in a cooking pot. Only use the cooking pot for the face masks.
  • Have you washed the face mask at too low a temperature? Then iron it at a high temperature.
  • Have you touched a dirty mask? For example, to put it in the washing machine. Then definitely wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do you want to use the mask again? The mask has to be completely dry first. You therefore need two masks.

How do you store a clean face mask?

  • Put the cloth bag with the face masks in the same, clean place.
  • Do you want to use a clean mask? Then wash your hands first. Only pick up the mask by the ribbons or elastic bands.
  • Do not put your mask in the fridge or freezer. The cold does not kill the virus. The mask might contaminate your food.

Are you wearing a scarf?

  • Use a scarf that you can wash at 60°C.
  • Wrap the scarf around your face twice.

Frequently asked questions

    What are the recommendations for wearing face masks in public places ?
    Wearing a mask is recommended for all persons who can use it correctly when in close contact (less than 1.5 meters) with other people. It is even more recommended in the case of contact with a weak person.
    What type of mask should I use?
    The FFP2 masks are intended for healthcare professionals. In aid of relaxing the measures, you can use a fabric face mask made according to the specific guidelines. This is on the condition that you wear and maintain the mask correctly. If you don’t have a face mask yet and you are not able to make one yourself, you can use a scarf or bandana to cover your nose and mouth.
    Will it be mandatory to wear a face mask?

    Wearing a face mask is strongly recommended. It is mandatory:

    • on public transport for travellers from the age of 12, as soon as they arrive at the station or bus/tram stop;
    • in companies, when social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Initiatives will be implemented so that every citizen will have at least one face mask. Each citizen will also receive two filters to put into masks already bought or made. Further information concerning these initiatives will be communicated shortly.
    What protection does a face mask offer?
    Wearing a face mask is not primarily about protecting yourself, but rather about protecting others. Conversely, you are also protected if others around you are wearing a face mask.
    Who must wear a face mask?

    This recommendation will apply to anyone who is able to wear the face mask correctly. It therefore does not apply to:

    • young children, who may use the mask the wrong way,
    • people suffering from a medical condition that makes wearing a face mask impossible.
    For how long can I wear a face mask before I have to change it?
    The face mask should be replaced every 8 hours or every 4 hours if it is used “intensively” (for example, a teacher in a classroom) or if it gets wet or visibly dirty. The face mask should be washed at 60° after every use.
    How should I put on the mask?
    • Before putting on the face mask, wash your hands thoroughly. • Only touch the elastic bands or ribbons when putting on your mask. • The face mask should cover your nose, mouth and chin and must be securely attached at the sides. • Begin putting on your mask from the top, with a snug fit to your nose. Fasten it below while covering your chin.
    How should I take off the mask?
    • When taking off your mask, only touch its elastic bands or ribbons. • Once you have taken it off, wash your hands thoroughly. • If you need to take the mask off for a short time (to drink, for example), then place it on a clean surface that you can easily sanitise afterwards or place it in a hermetically sealed bag.
    How should I wear a mask?
    • As soon as you have put on your face mask, you should avoid touching it. • If your mask slips down or is not well fastened, then only touch the sides to reposition it. • Avoid putting your mask on and taking it off too often.
    Can I wear the face mask around my neck for a while, to take a drink for example?
    No, because of the risk of contamination. If the mask needs to be removed, for example for a drink, then place it on a clean surface that can be sanitised afterwards. You can also hold it by the ribbons or elastic bands.
    How can I wear a mask if I have a beard and/or moustache?
    Since a face mask serves to protect others, it is not very important if the mask does not fit your face perfectly. Therefore, it is not necessary to shave your beard or moustache.
    Can I use a scarf or bandana instead of a face mask?
    A face mask made according to the recommended specifications is better than a scarf or bandana, but if it is really impossible to obtain a face mask, then a scarf or bandana can also be used. This is provided that at least 2 layers of fabric are covering your face and that you can wash the fabrics at 60°C after every use.
    What should I do if I have to cough or sneeze when wearing a face mask?

    You can cough in the mask. If you have to sneeze:

    • preferably take off the mask first;
    • sneeze into a paper handkerchief, which you then throw away;
    • put the mask back on after washing your hands. If this is not possible, the face mask must be removed if it is wet or dirty.
    Can I make fabric face masks for myself and others?
    Of course! In fact, this is an act of solidarity that we would certainly encourage! Be sure to follow the recommended specifications and follow a scientifically validated model.
    How do I make my own fabric face mask?

    Use the following tips:

    • The most important criterion for your fabric face mask is that it covers the nose, mouth and chin.
    • Use thickly woven fabrics, which provide the best protection.
    • Use 2 to 3 layers of fabric.
    • Use fabrics that are easy to breathe through, such as cotton.
    • Using a filter in your face mask can improve its filter capacity, but it can also make it harder to breathe through. This also makes it harder to wear this mask for a long time. Read all the information on how to use a filter correctly, here (Dutch/French only)
    • Use fabrics you can wash at 60°C.
    • Avoid using fabrics that are too stiff, too warm or irritating.
    • Use two different colours so you can easily see which is the inside of your mask and which is the outside.
    • Choose your face mask in line with what you are going to use it for. A face mask with elastic bands is easier, but also more unpleasant if you have to wear it for a long time. If you need to wear the face mask for a long time, you could opt for one with fabric ribbons. If you only wear the face mask to do some shopping, you could opt for one with elastic bands.
    • Ideally, avoid vertical seams in the middle of your mask.
    • Wash your hands carefully before you start making your face mask.
    • Wash the fabric before and after making your face mask. Pre-wash the fabric, because fabrics can shrink in the wash.
    • Keep your face mask in a clean, sheltered place.

    You can use one of the models below:

    These models were validated by the Risk Management Group, based on the advice from a group comprising experts from Sciensano, the Supreme Health Council, FAMHP, RAG and the FPS Public Health.

    What fabric should I use to make a fabric face mask?
    • Use thickly woven fabrics, which provide the best protection. • Use fabrics that are easy to breathe through, such as cotton. • Use fabrics you can wash at 60°C. • Avoid using fabrics that are too stiff, too warm or irritating. • Use 2 to 3 layers of fabric. • Using a filter in your face mask can improve its filter capacity, but it can also make it harder to breathe through. This also makes it harder to wear this mask for a long time. • Use two different colours so you can easily see which is the inside of your mask and which is the outside.
    What model can I use to make a fabric face mask?

    There are various models available. We particularly recommend the following models:

    These models were validated by the Risk Management Group, based on the advice from a group comprising experts from Sciensano, the Supreme Health Council, FAMHP, RAG and the FPS Public Health.

    How do you wash a fabric mask?
    • The face mask should be replaced every 8 hours or every 4 hours if it is used “intensively” (for example, a teacher in a classroom) or if it gets wet or visibly dirty. • The face mask should be washed after every use. • The face mask should be washed using detergent in the washing machine at 60°C with the rest of the washing, or it can be boiled in a cooking pot that is only being used for this purpose. If you wash the mask at too low a temperature, for example if you wash it by hand, then you should iron it at a high temperature afterwards. • After touching a dirty mask, for example to put it in the washing machine, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. • The mask must be completely dry before you can use it again. It is therefore recommended to have a minimum of two masks.
    How do you store a clean face mask?
    Do not leave your face mask lying around at home. Choose a permanent, clean place for your clean masks. Do not touch the clean face mask once this has been washed and never touch it on the inside. Do not put your mask in the fridge or freezer. The cold will not kill the virus and the mask will risk infecting your food.
    How do you store a used face mask before washing it?
    Do not leave your face mask lying around at home. Store your used face masks in a sealed fabric bag that you wash along with the mask. Never touch the face mask on the inside. Do not put your mask in the fridge or freezer. The cold will not kill the virus and the mask will risk infecting your food.