Etiquette to Follow When You Wear a Face Mask

As wearing a mask becomes the new normal, here are some social dos and don'ts to keep in mind.

Remember your neighbour out on his evening walk with the mask nonchalantly pulled down to their neck (just quickly getting some fresh air)? Or, your co-worker casually putting his mask down on his desk every now and then (his desk, his rules!)?

Not only are these sights highly unsafe, but they are also cringe-worthy, socially disrespectful, and in some cases, downright rude. And many a time, the offenders actually end up causing discomfort to the others around inadvertently, without even meaning to.

So other than the obvious—always wearing a mask—here are some golden mask-rules you should keep in mind the next time you step out in public, to make sure you don’t fall in this sorry category…

Wear It Properly, As Prescribed By the Experts

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This means it should rest snug on your face, covering your nose, lips, and chin entirely. And make sure your can breathe easily in it. And this wear-decorum applies to the entire time you are out and among people—even when you’re chatting on the phone, say hi to a passerby, placing your order at the grocery store, and all else in between. No cutting corners on this front! Also, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing your hands before touching the mask to put in on.

When Eating Out, Put It Away Responsibly

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Whether you’re having a socially-distanced lunch with friends or on a date with bae, always stay masked up, even on entering the restaurant, until you’re seated. (CDC prescribes that one wear masks at all times, when in public, around people who don’t live in your household.) You can take it off when you’re eating or drinking, but there’s a rule for that too: just like for all other of your belongings, never leave the mask on the table. One, it is bad manners; and also, you don’t want your germs spreading all over. When done eating, don’t forget to put the mask back on, even if just making a quick dash to the restroom.

Avoid Any Mask-Meltdowns

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So no getting into arguments or rows with people who are not wearing a mask, or when you’re told to mask up! It is compulsory to wear masks in public, so if you catch someone breaking the mandate, don’t be afraid to bring it up, sternly yet politely.

If you think all reasoning is falling on deaf ears, it’s best to not create a scene: put yourself first, and either simply leave the place, or ensure you maintain enough distance to be out of any potential virus’s way as much as possible. If you’re the one not wearing a masks and are being asked to, listen to them and please WEAR one!

Make Sure Your Mask Is in Shipshape

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You wouldn’t want to step out in tattered clothes, broken footwear, or raggedy accessories, would you? So you certainly have no reason to show up in unbecoming masks, either. There are a number of choices available—from high street to couture—for masks these days. But even if you want to keep it simple and subtle, make sure your mask is at least a functional one, not a makeshift piece of cloth, or worse still, damaged. The WHO, CDC, and other numerous organisations and health experts state simple requirements for the masks, do look them up and get an appropriate mask that serves the purpose.

CDC, though, advises against using masks meant for healthcare workers—surgical and N95 respirators etc—as they are critical supplies and “should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders”.

Cast It Off With Precaution

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Take it off by untying the strings from behind your head or stretching the ear loops, according to CDC. Handle it only by the ear loops or ties. Now fold the outside corners together and place the mask in the washing machine. CDC says you can include your face coverings in your regular laundry or with other clothes if washing by hand. Later, put the mask in direct sunlight or use the highest heat setting on your dryer. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing the mask, and wash hands immediately after removing. If you’re wearing a disposable mask, don’t re-use them and make sure you read all instructions by experts on how to discard them responsibly.