On April 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation for members of the general public to wear non-surgical or cloth face coverings in public when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Why now? 

The CDC made this recommendation based on ongoing research about the transmission of COVID-19. These studies indicate that individuals who are infected with COVID-19 but are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic can transmit the virus to people in close proximity through speaking, coughing, and sneezing. Since the incubation period for COVID-19 can be as long as two weeks, asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people can unknowingly spread the virus by doing things like going to an essential job or grocery shopping. It’s critical that the public wear face coverings in conjunction with continued social distancing practices in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

For more information about wearing non-surgical or cloth face coverings, please visit the CDC website. 

What is a non-surgical face mask and cloth face covering?

A non-surgical face mask or cloth face covering is face protection that does not meet standards for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved N95 or other NIOSH-approved protective respirators. These masks could be professionally manufactured dust masks or homemade cloth face coverings.

Why shouldn’t I wear an N95 or another NIOSH-approved respirator?

This is a complicated question because N95 or higher masks are the most effective protective face coverings against COVID-19. 

However, there’s currently a worldwide shortage of surgical-grade masks and other appropriate PPE, so they should be reserved for healthcare workers.

Will non-surgical face masks offer any protection? 

Yes, non-surgical and homemade face coverings have shown to be effective at slowing the spread of infectious particles aerosolized while talking, breathing, coughing, and sneezing. Even while wearing a non-surgical or homemade face covering, it’s critical to continue practicing social distancing. 

How do I wear a non-surgical face mask or cloth face covering?

Non-surgical manufactured face masks should be worn based on manufacturer recommendations. 

According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Completely cover your nose and mouth
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be able to be laundered

How do I put on and remove my non-surgical face mask or cloth face cover?

When putting on and removing (donning and doffing) your face mask, keep these things in mind. 


  • Secure ties or elastic bands at the middle of the head and neck or behind the ears depending on the mask.
  • Fit flexible band to the bridge of the nose.
  • Fit snug to face and below chin.
  • Conduct a fit check.

  • Remember that the front of the mask/respirator is contaminated – DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Grasp the bottom, then the top ties or elastics, and remove.
  • Discard in a waste container if your mask is disposable, or launder your mask to sanitize if it’s reusable.
  • Wash your hands immediately after discarding your mask and ensure you do not touch your face.

For more tips on donning and doffing your face mask, check out this infographic from the CDC.

How should I wash my cloth face covering?

According to the CDC, machine washing is adequate for sterilizing your cloth face covering.

How do I make a cloth face covering?

There are many different ways to make cloth face coverings. Please refer to the CDC for sew and no-sew instructions on creating your own cloth face covering.