If You Must Reuse, Reuse Masks Safely

These are extraordinary times, and often extended use of a mask and mask reuse are the best available options. Here are tips to reuse masks safely.


Grateful for the informative and accurate information on COVID-19. You said in an earlier article, “While wearing a mask can be beneficial in some specific cases, in reality, they are better at keeping a sick person’s illness contained, rather than preventing a healthy person from acquiring the disease.” What are your recommendations to healthcare providers who’ve been instructed to put on a mask; keep that same mask on through an entire shift (which may be upwards of 12 hours)? Can we reuse masks safely? Vicki, a healthcare worker

Dr. Greene's Answer

Vicki, thank you for your service in the midst of this battle and for your great question.

As of today (April 3) the CDC has urged that all of us wear masks when we are in public, which I expect will further decrease the coronavirus spread. Many people who have no symptoms are contagious — including both healthcare workers and people in general.

Masks are especially good at decreasing US spreading infections to others.

My mask helps protect you; your mask helps protect me — and together we make a big difference in decreasing this illness.

You asked my recommendation for healthcare workers instructed to put on a mask and keep the same mask on for a 12-hour shift. These are extraordinary times, and often extended use of a mask and mask reuse are the best available options. I have several thoughts on how to do this more safely.

How To Reuse Masks Safely

  1. 1. Be especially careful not to touch the outside surface of the mask with your hands.
  2. 2. If you do accidentally touch the outside of the mask, wash your hands immediately.
  3. 3. If the mask does become damaged, visibly dirtied, or difficult to breathe through – change masks even if it is not the end of a shift.
  4. 4. If you take the mask off for a break, don’t touch the outside of the mask, but fold it so that the outer surface is against itself, slip it in a bag, and wash your hands.
Published on: April 03, 2020
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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