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Mask Guidance

Best practice on how to use and sanitize community masks.

How to use a Community Mask

  • Sanitize your Community Mask BEFORE use (also first use, as you don’t know who has handled the mask before) and after each use.

  • Never share your Community Mask with others.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before putting on a sanitized mask ;

  • The Community Mask should cover your mouth and nose. Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Secure mask by tying the straps behind your head or by hooking the ear loops. You should still be able to breathe without restriction.

  • Put the mask on before you leave your house or car.

  • There is no need to wear a community mask in your house with your core family group, but if you receive visitors, put on your mask and ask them to put on theirs.

  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with soap and water.

  • When removing the Community Mask, only use the straps. Do not touch the front piece. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you remove the mask before you get home, keep used mask safe in a plastic bag until you get home.

  • Wash hands with soap immediately after removing your Community Mask

  • NB: Community Masks are not recommended for young children under 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

SANITIZING your mask properly and regularly is IMPORTANT!

  • Put the used Community Mask in a separate bucket for washing, don’t mix it with your regular laundry.[Don’t litter the Community Mask, any used mask may be spreading the virus]
  • Wash Community Mask every day in a separate bucket with laundry soap and water

           a) Apply laundry soap on the wet Community Mask and rub thoroughly to cover it entirely with foam,

           b) Leave the Community Mask for a minimum of 20 minutes soaking in the soapy water (soap helps to kill viruses)

           c) Rinse the Community Mask in a bucket and discard the water in a safe place to soak away.

           d) Hang Community Mask to dry completely if possible in direct sun

           e) Keep dry Community Mask safe from contamination (e.g. in a clean plastic bag) before putting it on your face again.

  • If you have no water nor soap:

           a) Iron Community Mask thoroughly to sanitize (electric or filled with charcoal)

            b) Put Community Mask in bright sunshine for at least 6 hours

Wearing a Community Mask in public…

  • will not protect you from getting infected, yet they reduce your risk to get infected as they help to prevent you from touching your mouth and nose, though not your eyes. Masks mainly help to protect others from you.

  • should be considered an act of solidarity to avoid spreading the virus, together with spatial distancing (best 2 arms length) and hygiene including regular washing with soap of hands and other objects people touch.

  • is not selfish, but a sign of love and respect towards others.

  • is preventative because most people will not know they are infected and neither will you initially (for between 5 and 14 days). There is evidence that people are highly contagious before they show symptoms.If it turns out that you are incubating COVID-19, the people you care about will be glad you wore a Community Mask.

  • by everybody when in contact with people not living in the same household can reduce the chance of getting infected. Consequent responsible and respectful behaviour of everybody might allow people still the freedom of movement to earn their daily livelihoods and at the same time slow the spread of the virus

The Community Mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID 19:

  • Keep a distance to other people (best 2 arms length), don’t shake hands or hug

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap

  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces
Let’s all wear Community Masks correctly and wash them daily with soap and water – I protect you, you protect me!
* Compiled by volunteers from according to best widely available knowledge. Learn about the sources consulted in preparation of the guidance document.

* Definition: We refer to A Community Mask as a reusable, washable face-and-nose cover made from cloth in Malawi for Malawians to slow the spread of COVID-19. It is NOT a medical mask. Those should be reserved for health workers.


Please note: Community Masks will NOT protect the wearer from getting infected, but they help to protect others should you be infected.

You may not know if you are infected or not – sometimes it takes many days for symptoms to start to appear – some people that are infected never develop symptoms but are capable of transmitting the virus to others anyway.

It is more an act of solidarity and responsible behavior. If it turns out that you’re incubating COVID-19, the people you care about will be glad you wore a mask. Moreover, if everybody wears a mask, it can have a protective effect.

You must always follow the advice of the Government of Malawi in relation to protecting yourself against Corona-Virus COVID-19.

Community Masks are part of a comprehensive overall solution involving other important measures such as social distancing, hand washing etc.

We have compiled this document to help encourage the better usage of Community Masks based on the (dynamically evolving) evidence and scientific resources, according to the best widely available knowledge. Please find a list of documents consulted in the process here: sources consulted. We engaged numerous experts across a broad spectrum of expertise to cover many different points of view (see same link).

Community Masks MUST BE used correctly and can be dangerous if not used correctly. The information contained in this Guidance may be contradicted by evidence that emerges in the future. Please see for more information.

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