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How to throw surgical masks

Surgical masks are loosely fitting face masks that cover your nose and mouth. Although they can be helpful in preventing bacteria, body fluids and contaminants from entering the body, they do have the potential to become contaminated or deceived. If your surgical mask or N95 respirator is no longer usable, be sure to throw it away carefully to avoid spreading bacteria to other people.


[[[[Edit]Remove the mask

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Use warm water and hand soap and scrub your hands thoroughly and make sure you get the palms, the top edge of your hands and between your fingers. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, then rinse them off and dry them with a clean towel.[1]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 1.jpg
    • Soap is very effective against most bacteria.
  2. Hold the mask in the ear loops or ties. Take the mask in the straps, not in the mask itself. If your mask has ear loops, grab them, and if your mask has ribbons or straps around the back of your head, loosen them and hang on them.[2]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 2.jpg
    • Surgical masks usually have ear loops, while N95 respirators usually have straps that go around the back of the head.
  3. Pull the mask away from your face and be careful not to touch the front. Just keep your hands on the straps and gently pull the mask away from your face. Try not to touch the mask itself the whole time you remove it.[3]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 3.jpg
    • If you touch the mask on the front, you can contaminate your hands with bacteria.

[[[[Edit]Put the mask in the trash

  1. Place the mask in a sealed plastic bag. Be careful not to touch the mask forward. Then close the plastic bag and push out the air so that it is mostly flat.[4]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 4.jpg
    • Sealing the mask in a bag will keep bacteria or contaminants out of the air and the environment.
    • If you do not have a plastic bag on hand, you can throw the mask directly in the trash as long as there is a plastic bag in it.
  2. Throw the mask and bag in the trash if you are not sick. The only safe place to put a mask is in the trash. Make sure you put the mask directly in the trash and do not let it sit on your table or countertop.[5]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 5.jpg
    • It is better to take the mask home and dispose of it properly than to throw it away in a public garbage can incorrectly.
  3. Put the bag in a container for hazardous waste if you are ill. If you have symptoms of a virus or if you know you have been contaminated while wearing your mask, put your mask in a hazardous waste container so that it can be disposed of properly. If you do not have one nearby, contact your local dump to see if you can get rid of it.[6]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 6.jpg
    • If you have recently visited your doctor, you can ask them for a special bag for hazardous waste and where the nearest waste facility is.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Repeat the same hand washing process as you just did with soap and warm water. Scrub the tops of your hands, palms and between your fingers for at least 20 seconds, then rinse them off and dry them on a clean towel.[7]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 7.jpg
    • This will get rid of any accidental contamination that you may have picked up while throwing the mask.
  5. Disinfect your sink and the surrounding area with a cleaning product. Even if you were careful, there is a potential for infection to spread from your worm to the surrounding area. Wipe down your sink, faucet handle, outside of the garbage and anything else you touched with an ammonium-based cleaning product to get rid of any bacteria.[8]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 8.jpg
    • Citric acid and hydrogen peroxide are two common cleansers that you may already own.

[[[[Edit]Knowing when to throw away your mask

  1. Throw away your mask if it gets scammed or damaged. If your mask gets a hole in it or if it is visibly damaged, it is no longer useful to you. Throw it out and get a new one as soon as you can.[9]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 9.jpg
    • Masks with holes in them are not effective in keeping bacteria in or out, so they are basically useless.
  2. Dispose of your mask if it is visibly dirty or contaminated. If you know that you have been in someone with an infectious virus or that your mask looks dirty, throw it away. This will keep you safe and ensure that you do not inhale dangerous bacteria the next time you wear your mask.[10]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 10.jpg
    • If there is enough dirt on the outside of your mask, it can be difficult to breathe through.
  3. Discard your mask if it becomes difficult to breathe through. Sometimes air pollutants can clog the holes in your mask and make it difficult to get air in and out. If it is difficult to breathe through your mask, discard it and try a new one.[11]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 11.jpg
    • Masks can be hot and uncomfortable to wear, but they should never stop you from taking a full breath.
  4. Discard the mask if it becomes damp. If your mask gets water or body fluids from someone else on it, you will need to replace it. Remove it immediately and replace it with a new one to remain protected.[12]
    Discard Surgical Masks Step 12.jpg
    • Masks moistened with an infected person’s body fluids can infect you as you inhale.
    • Masks moistened with water can be difficult to breathe through.


  • Surgical masks are only intended to be worn once.[13]


  • Always throw away your mask if it becomes dirty, contaminated or difficult to breathe through.[14]

[[[[Edit]Things you need

  • Plastic bag with seal
  • Trash with bag


  1. https://www.sfcdcp.org/communicable-disease/healthy-habits/how-to-put-on-and-remove-a-face-mask/
  2. https://www.sfcdcp.org/communicable-disease/healthy-habits/how-to-put-on-and-remove-a-face-mask/
  3. https://www.consumerreports.org/coronavirus/do-you-need-a-mask-to-prevent-coronavirus/
  4. https://www.consumerreports.org/coronavirus/do-you-need-a-mask-to-prevent-coronavirus/
  5. https://www.consumerreports.org/coronavirus/do-you-need-a-mask-to-prevent-coronavirus/
  6. https://www.narayanahealth.org/blog/know-about-proper-usage-disposal-and-reuse-of-mask/
  7. https://www.sfcdcp.org/communicable-disease/healthy-habits/how-to-put-on-and-remove-a-face-mask/
  8. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19
  9. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-and-face-masks
  10. https://www.narayanahealth.org/blog/know-about-proper-usage-disposal-and-reuse-of-mask/
  11. https://www.narayanahealth.org/blog/know-about-proper-usage-disposal-and-reuse-of-mask/
  12. https://www.sfcdcp.org/communicable-disease/healthy-habits/how-to-put-on-and-remove-a-face-mask/
  13. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-and-face-masks
  14. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-and-face-masks

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