Healthy living

Face masks

Face masks are a simple and effective way to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. By wearing a face mask, you can help protect yourself and those around you.

Face masks can stop viruses spreading in the air when you talk, cough, sneeze and laugh. A well-fitted mask lowers your risk of spreading or catching viruses.

Use of face masks is not mandated in Western Australia but they should be worn in crowded indoor settings and where physical distancing is not possible.

Always carry a mask when you leave home. If you believe you need to wear a mask in certain circumstances, you should do so.

Never share your face mask with others.

Scarves and bandanas are not suitable to be used as face masks.

Wash or sanitise your hands before putting on and after removing your mask.

What are the different types of face mask?

Single use surgical face masks – discard after use

Surgical masks are single use items. They need to be changed after 4 hours, or if they become moist or soiled, and must be disposed after every use.

It is recommended you wear a surgical mask if you are caring for someone with COVID-19, or have or are suspected of having COVID-19. You may also consider wearing a mask where you cannot safely ensure physical distance, or if you are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to age (over 70), immunosuppression or underlying medical conditions.

Reusable fabric masks

Reusable fabric face masks act as a barrier between you (your mouth and nose) and the surrounding environment, to protect those around you.

Fabric masks should be 3 layers, with each layer a different type of fabric.

It is recommended that fabric masks be washed at least once a day, and when wet or visibly dirty. Wash with laundry detergent on the hottest setting (preferably at least 60 degrees Celsius). Avoid using disinfectants to clean the mask because they may produce fumes that are harmful to inhale.

If you are unable to machine wash your fabric face masks, hand wash them in hot water with a laundry detergent, then rinse thoroughly.

Make sure your fabric mask is dry before storing or re-using. Once dry, store your clean fabric masks in a disposable, sealable plastic bag to protect from contamination.

Over time, your fabric face masks will need to be replaced, particularly if it no longer fits snugly, starts to slide or fall off, needs to be regularly adjusted, has holes, or if the material has started to wear or fray.

Reusable fabric face masks are not recommended to be worn by people at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

How to safely take a face mask off
Disposing of face masks

Single use masks should be placed in a rubbish bin immediately after use at the point of removal. If a bin is not available, place the used mask in a bag that can be disposed of in the nearest rubbish bin or take the mask to the nearest rubbish bin, ensuring the used mask cannot contaminate other items or people.

Avoid placing masks in cars, pockets, and bags because used masks pose a risk of contamination to other items and people.

Always wash or sanitise hands before and after handling used masks.

Mask wearing for children

Children aged 12 years and over (year 7 and over for schools) may be required to wear masks in certain settings, such as a hospital.

Mask wearing protects children from COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

Choose a well-fitting and comfortable mask that fits over the child’s nose, under the chin and does not impair vision.

Poorly fitted or uncomfortable masks may be worn incorrectly or removed by a child, limiting their benefits.

A child with anxiety, sensory differences, or autism can find it difficult to wear a mask or even feel panicked when a mask is put on them.

There is no medical evidence (external site) related to masks causing physical, emotional, psychological or developmental harm in children, producing bacterial pneumonia (external site) or depriving children of oxygen.

Mask exemptions

Parents who have concerns about mask wearing for their child are encouraged to speak to their child’s GP for advice.

Mask exemptions need to be sought from your doctor.

Talking to a child in a mask

Turn to face your child and use plenty of eye contact. Try speaking more loudly, slowly and clearly so your child can hear you through the mask.

Use exaggerated expressions so your smile or surprise shows in your eyes. Use body language and gestures like nodding and gently touching your child to show you’re listening.

Healthcare settings

From 12.00am Monday 20 November face masks are recommended for patients, visitors and employees in public hospitals. Refer to the hospital or healthcare setting for further face mask requirements.

Healthcare workers may be required to wear N95 and P2 respirators in certain circumstances.

Reusable fabric face masks are not recommended to be worn by healthcare workers.

Last reviewed: 04-11-2022

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.