"Use once" - what DOES this mean?

There has been widespread feeling that some of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are unclear. Let us look at one recommendation - the one about “single use” face masks. “Use once only” is not as simple an instruction as it may first appear. Consider three scenarios.

  1. You are staying at home, per general advice. You have a grocery delivery booked. When it arrives, you put on your mask and greet the delivery driver, who is also wearing a mask. You therefore wear a mask for about five minutes, and have no need to wear a mask for the rest of the day.

  2. You work in a supermarket. You wear your mask continuously for a few hours as you mix with colleagues and shoppers.

  3. You are doing essential shopping. You visit five shops. In each shop you of course put on your mask. Outside in the open, you take off your mask, so you can breathe more freely and avoid your spectacles steaming up.

Clearly, in scenario 1, you wear your mask the least and are at minimum risk of becoming infected or infecting others. In scenario 2 the risks are greatest. Scenario 3 is less risky than scenario 2, but - you have effectively used your mask five times, even though the aggregate hours of use are far less than scenario 2.

Does this make sense? If one goes shopping, is one expected to carry several masks - one for each brief visit?

What do others think?

In theory, if you sanitise your hands before putting it on and taking it off, then it should be ok to take it off and put it on again. However, if you watch people they are always touching their masks, adjusting them, pulling them down and up etc therefore their masks are quickly soiled. There are so many possible scenarios that a one size instruction is simpler to provide.

S and I use washable ones.


I personally prefer the disposable masks. They are more comfortable for me. Have bought in bulk, but I don’t have a new one each time. I judge, how long had it on and how any shops have been in. Which is very few, as online shop. Grandson takes me on occasions. He prefers the washable ones. Not to give too much info, but I have a problem with my nose. Sensitive and drippy! The mask doesn’t help. Am certainly more used to them now. Have to be.
I still think what have we come to when seeing most all masked up.

Its when the masks get wet that they are judged no good, your breath is moist, so you just have to check.

I visit the local shop, only wear the mask for 5 minutes, so do i replace the mask i don’t know?

The shop has a big squirty sanitiser hand spray I always use, as usual never see any one else using it.

You are supposed to wash the cloth masks at a high temperature to kill off all the bugs, over 60 degrees i think?



Thanks to all that responded. There are some good suggestions there, to share with others.

I also have a nose problem - a small one and the mask tends to slip down off it, so I need to hitch it up again. It sounds as though I am not the only one with this problem. I keep a bottle of sanitiser in the car, and I always use the sanitizer in the shop.

At home, where I care for someone with health issues, I wash my hands umpteen times a day - certainly after picking things off the floor, handling wheely bins, bird feeders or anything in the garden.

I wash face masks with the regular laundry. I would go with: “Wash or replace after a day’s use.”

Denis I have the same problem with the disposable masks slipping, but in my case they tend to ride up to my eyelashes and obscure my view ! I’ve found that I need to “twist” the ear loops so that they fit tighter (tip from my 11 year old great-niece !!!).

I also found some hand made washable masks that fit much, much better as they are deeper so stay put under my chin and don’t ride up. These I bung in with my normal laundry after a couple of wears.

My sister only uses the disposable ones - after use she hand washes them with bacterial hand wash and then hangs them up to dry for use another time.

I also keep a couple of the disposable ones in the car - they get “quarantined” before a 2nd use - if clothes shops can quarantine returned items of clothing for 72 hours before they go out on sale again I can’t see why masks can’t be treated the same way ?