How to Safely Remove a N95 Mask

You have protected yourself from breathing in contaminants by correctly fitting and wearing your N95 mask, now you need to make sure your don’t spread contamination when you remove your mask.

Here is how to remove your N95 Surgical Mask respirator.

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before touching or taking off the mask.
  2. Important. Do not touch the front part of the mask, it may be contaminated. Only touch the elastic bands.

3a. For face masks with elastic bands securing the mask, lift the bottom strap over your head first and then pull the top strap over your head to remove the mask in a motion away from you so the front of the mask doesn’t touch anywhere.

3b. For face masks with ties, remove the bottom tie first and then the top tie

3c. For face masks with straps over the ears, hold the straps, take each side off one by one and then remove the mask away from you, again not letting the front of the mask touch anything.

  1. If you are going to re-use your mask, hang it up somewhere by the bands so the front of the mask isn’t touching anything.
  2. Wash your hands well with soap and water again.

Once you have your mask off make sure to practice good cleanliness practices. Wash your hands with soap as soon as you enter your house, before eating, after going to the washroom etc. Also refrain from touching your mouth, nose, eyes if your hands haven’t been properly cleaned first.

Properly removing your mask isn’t difficult, but it is very important. The main thing to remember is to assume that the front of the mask is contaminated. Don’t touch it with your hands or let the front of the mask touch anything while you are removing it.


N95 Mask – Standard or Valved?

When buying N95 masks there are many options on the market. One choice you will come across is to choose a standard N95 respirator without a valve, or to get a mask with a valve.

The valve in facemasks are there to make the mask more comfortable for you, especially when wearing the mask for longer periods of time. When you exhale, the valve opens up and lets the hot air through the valve instead of having to force the air through the mask filter. This makes it easier to breath and also keeps you cooler. It also helps the mask not get damp / soiled as it lets the hot and humid exhalation air out quickly and directly.

Masks with valves will still protect your inhaled breaths as when you breath in, the valve is closed and the mask will filter as a standard mask would do.

This is what 3M says about their 3M Cool Flow valves:

“The Cool Flow valve’s efficiency in keeping breathing cool and comfortable has been demonstrated through testing*: the atmosphere inside a respirator with a Cool Flow valve is on average 7.5°F cooler than the similar product without the valve. This makes Cool Flow valve respirators ideal for long periods of wear, especially where conditions are hot, humid or physically demanding. *Testing conducted in a 3M laboratory. Testing protocol, data generation and conclusions were reviewed and approved by an expert from The University of Minnesota”

It is also important to note when you should not use a valved mask. If you are in a sterile healthcare environment you SHOULD NOT wear a valved mask. The reason is that the mask will not filter out contaminants from your exhaled breath. This will contaminate the environment around the wearer. By the same token, for containment purposes for example, if someone is sick with something transmissible or contagious they should wear a standard mask, NOT a valved mask.

There you have it, now you know when to choose a standard N95 mask and when to choose a valved N95 facemask.