DOs and DON’Ts of Face Masks

It’s 2020, and Face Masks are all the rage.

I’m part of the consumer-elastic and -fabric supply chain, so I know. By the time this is all over, we should have about 500 face masks per capita.

[For future web-surfers, “this” is the COVID-19/coronavirus/Wu Han virus pandemic that paralyzed the world during the first part of 2020.]

And yet…a lot of people seem to be missing the point.

On the one hand, it’s great that people have found something they can do to participate in this pandemic.

On the other hand, is wearing a face mask something we should medically be doing?

When the so-called “experts” keep giving conflicting advice – or changing their minds about what is “best” – it’s easy to not know what to believe.

But you should listen to me. I’m on the internet. You can trust me.

Here, in one place, are some basics on Face Masks…so you can decide for yourself if wearing one is worth it!

DO NOT — Not Worth It

First off, is there ever a time you shouldn’t wear a mask? Isn’t wearing a face mask the only thing that will keep retired puppies in poor neighborhoods from dying?

First — the Medical Science!

…is inconclusive.

Some doctors and scientists aren’t sure Face Masks help that much. Why not?

1) Only the very thickest, medical-quality Face Masks actually block the Virus™. Other types of masks just give a false sense of security.

2) If you do happen to inhale the Virus™, the mask traps your breath against your mouth, so that you have the opportunity to breath it in repeatedly (which means more exposure).

3) Those masks are dang uncomfortable. Human beings are not just going to wear them and leave them alone…we’re going to scratch our noses, and adjust our masks, and re-adjust the nose-piece, and tug at the elastic – and we might actually touch our faces less without the mask there!

(And touching faces is bad because whatever germs are riding on your hands move that much closer to your mouth and mucus membranes!)

DOs and DON'Ts of Face Masks — Kimia Wood

Image credit: xkcd

So the doctors and scientists are divided about whether masks actually help or not.

However, if you do want to wear a mask, here are some DON’Ts that are most definitely Not Helpful:

Bad Masks

The purpose of the Face Mask is to stop the droplets from your breath traveling to any people or surfaces around you. Most fabric masks are not going to stop the Virus™, but they can stop the droplets that the Virus™ travels in.

Well…except when they can’t:

Masks that don’t seal.

Masks are supposed to seal against your skin – tight around the nose and tight under the chin – so that all your breath is filtered through it.

(This is super hot and stifling, by the way.)

But not all masks do that.

The worst offender I’ve seen was a lady wearing what basically looked like a Mennonite doily cap, in cushion form, tied in front of her nose and mouth.

It didn’t wrap around her face. Air traveled freely to the sides of her mouth and into her nose. She essentially had a round, flat pad floating in front of her mouth and nose…doing nothing useful.

If you want to wear a mask that will actually protect you and others, at least make sure it filters the air coming to your lungs.

Masks that aren’t (actually) worn.

A mask is there to filter the air going to your lungs, and coming from your lungs. It does nothing if it rides under your nose, leaving your nostrils free to suck in great breaths of un-filtered air.

It does nothing if it’s tucked under your chin.

There’s no good done if it doesn’t have a metal wire to hold it tight against the bridge of your nose (or if you don’t use this metal piece to shape the mask to your face).

I get it…these things are picking hot, and make it hard to breathe.

But if you are choosing to wear the mask, and genuinely want it to be effective – then actually wear it so that it’s effective.

One-way Masks

This section is more of a PSA/FYI.

Some N95 masks actually only filter air coming into your lungs. There’s a valve to let air out of the mask, so that you can exhale freely.

This makes it easier to breathe in some ways, but it also means if you have the Virus™ in your lungs, this mask does nothing to keep it out of the air around you.

(This makes sense in masks that were designed to keep dust out of the lungs of workmen, carpenters, etc. while they’re doing construction projects and the like, or medical workers who are greatly exposed unless they’re protected.)

Is your goal to protect yourself from breathing in harmful particles? Great! Mask away!

But if your goal is to protect the people around you from anything you might be (unconsciously) carrying in your lungs, then pick a more thorough mask.

Posturing Masks

The internet now has pictures of people wearing crocheted masks – and (here’s the important part) lecturing the people around them that they should be wearing masks.

I love crochet (and knitting, too) but this yarn-work leaves giant freaking holes in the finished product.

Apparently they also sew a “carbon filter” on the backside to help medically filter the air…(which sounds like wearing a face-sweater in the summer).

There is a legitimate reason you might wear a crocheted mask – see below.

But – whatever you do – do not whine at other people about their behavior.

You cannot change other people. You can only change yourself. Lead by example and try appealing to their good sense – not shaming them!

And if you’re just wearing a mask to make other people look bad or stupid – time to get your priorities straight!

DO — Reasons You Might Want to Wear Masks

Aside from “somebody told me to,” of course.

Ignore the TV people screaming and running in circles. Pay no attention to the politicians trying out their jack-boots while the real people are out of their jobs.

If you’re going to wear a mask, make sure you’re doing it right, and doing it for the right reasons.

Helping Others

Helping other people is great. And if, like me, you enjoy visiting nursing homes (which I haven’t done for almost two months!) or have dear friends who are medically vulnerable, there would be nothing worse than bringing them a little tag-along friend who’s unwelcome.

As out-lined above, the best way to protect your friends, your family, the people at the store, and everyone else is to understand what you’re doing, use common sense, and do it right.

1) Pick a mask that actually keeps out the droplets (or even the Virus™).

2) Wear it properly, sealed over the bridge of your nose and under your chin.

3) Be mindful of what you touch – doorknobs, items in a store, other people’s hands – and try to sterilize frequently.

4) BE POLITE to other people. Part of LOVING them involves letting them make their own choices about what they’re comfortable with.


A brief word to all the people making masks to donate.

It’s great that you want to give and help others. I approve!

But the hospital where my mom is an RN doesn’t allow the staff to wear homemade masks. They’re just not medically precise enough. (Not to mention the FDA forbids the manufacture of medical equipment without its oversight and approval…don’t you love federal agencies?)

So if you intend your wares for medical facilities, make sure to check with wherever you plan to donate them that they could actually use them!

As for all the lovely ladies making masks for the kids to wear to school…stop just a moment and try to imagine the kiddos keeping those itchy, uncomfortable, hot, and stifling things on for five minutes.

Laura Ingalls could barely keep her sunbonnet on…and her generation respected their parents and authority figures!

Protecting Yourself

Your health is also important. If you are concerned about catching the virus, there are several options for you.

–Stay home.

–Wear an N95 or other particle/droplet grade mask.

The valved N95 won’t protect other people from you, but if you’re worried about catching the Virus™ yourself (which is Step 1 of spreading it, after all), then it should do a decent job.

–Wear a different mask, just make sure it has droplet-stopping power or a filter inside.


–Cleanse your hands frequently.


If you are old, there should be plenty of friends and family willing to get groceries for you or other tasks, so you don’t have to go out. Even if you’re isolated, churches in your area probably have some kind of system of volunteers to take care of the vulnerable.

You are not alone. You have options. If you really aren’t comfortable doing your own shopping or being around people…then don’t do it.

Being a Team Player

The phrase “virtue signaling” has super negative connotations for me, but there is a place for using your actions to say, “I am aware of the news, and care about the people around me.”

DOs and DON'Ts of Face Masks — Kimia Wood

Image credit: xkcd

I have to wear a mask for my day-job. It is a signal that we are doing our best to protect our customers and staff.

Even if you don’t think a face mask does anything particularly useful, you can love the “weaker brother” by saying, “I can wear this when I’m around you so that you are psychologically safer.”

(Even though they can steam up my glasses, the heat and moisture makes my face break out like crazy, and the majority of the associates are so over it.)

Whatever the draw-backs, it is simpler than carrying around a huge sign.

Remember: The Five-Year Perspective

If you decide to wear a mask, make sure you’re doing it for your own reasons…even if that reason is “be nice and play well with others.”

And remember—

People are still dying of the flu daily.

People are still dying of heart disease and cancer.

Babies are still being ripped limb from limb in abortion clinics.

People still die in fiery car crashes.

It’s easy to yell at people who aren’t doing things your way. (Super easy.)

Which is why I want you to be like me and chill out.

I predict that in five years, the internet will explode with DIYs for crafts to make with 8,000 fabric Face Masks.

DOs and DON'Ts of Face Masks — Kimia Wood

Image credit: xkcd

Although it might be nice if the hand-washing thing stayed around.

We will get through this. Civilization will survive. Let’s make sure our sanities and our personal freedoms do, too.

DOs and DON'Ts of Face Masks — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits.

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