Wearing Non-Medical Masks in the Community

The PEI Chief Public Health Officer recommends that individuals, who can wear a non-medical mask, should do so, especially indoors when physical distancing cannot always be maintained.

Wearing a facial covering/non-medical mask in the community is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing. However, it can be an additional measure you can take to protect others around you, even if you have no symptoms. It can be useful for short periods of time, when physical distancing is not possible in public settings such as when grocery shopping or using public transit.

Students and staff returning to school should consult guidelines for wearing masks and personal protective equipment in schools

Your mask protects others and their mask protects you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a non-medical mask?Thumbnail of poster outlining the DOs and Don'ts of wearing a mask

Homemade masks may include those:

  • made of cloth, such as cotton;
  • with pockets to insert additional material or filters.

Homemade masks are not medical devices, and consequently, are not regulated like medical masks and respirators. Their use poses a number of limitations:

  • not been tested to recognized standards
  • may not provide complete protection against virus-sized particles
  • edges are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth
  • fabrics are not the same as those used in medical masks  or respirators
  • can be difficult to breathe through and can prevent you from getting the required amount of oxygen needed by your body.

Graphic image to illustrate why wearing a mask indoors helps protect othersIf you choose to use a non-medical mask, it should be well-fitted (non-gaping). People should also be aware that masks can become contaminated on the outside and when touched by hands. Avoid moving the mask around or adjusting it often. Also, masks should not be shared with others. When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.

Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:

  • be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • Graphic image of no-sew maskallow for easy breathing
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • maintain their shape after washing and drying

Some masks also include a pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, for increased benefit.

If possible, use different fabrics for each side of the mask, so you know which side faces your mouth and which side is out.

Non-medical masks or face coverings should not:

  • be placed on children under the age of 2 yearsGraphic image of sewn mask
  • be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing
  • be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
  • be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
  • be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
  • be shared with others
  • impair vision or interfere with tasks

How do I put on a non-medical mask or face covering?

  1. Ensure the face covering is clean and dry.
  2. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before touching the mask.
    • If not available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.
  3. Ensure your hair is away from your face.
  4. Place the face covering over your nose and mouth and secure to your head or ears with its ties or elastics.
    • Adjust if needed to ensure nose and mouth are fully covered.
    • The mask should fit snugly to the cheeks and there should not be any gaps.
  5. Repeat step 2.

While wearing a non-medical mask or face covering, it is important to avoid touching your face. If you do touch your mask or face, you should immediately wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.

How do I remove a non-medical mask or face covering?

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
    • If not available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol base.
  2. Remove the face covering by un-tying it or removing the loops from your ears.
    • Avoid touching the front of the mask when removing it.
    • It can be placed in a plastic bag temporarily if you are not at home (make sure you close or zip seal the bag while storing it).
  3. If you plan to reuse the mask, wash it before wearing it again.

    • It can be washed with hot, soapy water, or it can be washed with your other laundry.
    • If throwing it out, place it into a garbage bin or plastic bag.
  4. After removing the face covering, repeat Step 1.

Image reads "I mask for" and includes a blank space to fill in.

Show your support of wearing non-medical masks in the community by filling out, and sharing, your own "I mask for" poster.

REMEMBER: Wearing a non-medical mask in the community does not mean you stop the public health measures that will protect you and others; a mask does not replace physical distancing. The emphasis is still on all of the recommendations regarding staying home, physical distancing, and hand hygiene.

Published date: 
August 6, 2020
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121

DeptHW@gov.pe.ca