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Are 2 Masks Better Than 1?

Correct and consistent mask use is a critical step everyone can take to reduce their risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. And recently, there’s been a lot of talk about wearing two masks to reduce spread of the virus. We’ve compiled information to help make sense of it all.


For starters, your mask should completely cover your nose and mouth and fit snuggly against the sides of your face without gaps. To test the fit of your mask, check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask. Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the side of your mask.


Why double mask? A well-fitting mask with improved filtration will stop more respiratory droplets containing the virus from getting inside your mask if others are sick, or from escaping your mask if you are ill.


If you wear a cloth mask, make sure it is made of multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric, and that the cloth blocks light from coming through the fabric if held up to a bright light source. If your cloth mask has gaps or you prefer an extra layer of protection, a single-use surgical mask worn under the cloth mask may create a better fit and improve filtration.


Mask combinations that should not be used to double mask:

  • Combining two surgical masks

  • Adding an extra layer to K95 masks

If you’ve decided to double mask, be sure you can breathe well while wearing two masks and that you can see well. It’s worthwhile trying the fit at home before venturing out in public.


Choose when to double mask. Double masks are best worn for situations when you are in close contact with people who do not live with you, such as medical appointments, grocery shopping, Metro rides, etc. One mask is fine for situations such as outdoor walks and socially distant conversations outside.


Note on single-use masks: If you choose to use single-use surgical masks, please cut the ear loops before disposing them in a trash can. There are disturbing images of birds and small animals getting trapped in mask loops. And remember, it is still important to maintain social distancing, avoid crowds, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you don’t feel well. Want to learn more? Visit the CDC’s website.

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