Fact Check : Are There Two Sides To A Surgical Mask?

Whenever there is haze or a viral epidemic, people start sharing tips on how to wear a surgical mask. Unfortunately, many of these social media posts are wrong.

We will debunk a hoax FALSELY teaching people that there are two sides of a surgical mask, and teach you THE CORRECT WAY to wear + remove a surgical mask.


Are There Two Sides To A Surgical Mask?

This hoax claiming that there are TWO SIDES to a surgical mask has been spreading across the Internet, on blogs, Facebook and of course, WhatsApp.

Here is the hoax about how even doctors do not know how to properly wear a surgical / medical mask… grammatical mistakes and all.

While at the doctors office today, we were informed by a Nurse the proper way to use a medical mask.

I didn’t know about this before. I thought it would be helpful to share, Because I was using them wrong the entire time.

When using a medical mask you’re suppose to use as follows:

Colored side out if you’re sick and do not want to spread your germs around.

White side out (this is the filter part) for when you’re not sick and you want to stop germs from getting in.

I always just assumed the color (blue) side went outward.

The Nurse said the entire doctors office never knew either, until the supplier sent them “proper directions” for them this past week!

Hope this helps!

Well, NO, it does not help. In fact, this hoax will probably result in a lot of people stupidly wearing their surgical masks the wrong way…


No, There Is Only ONE SIDE To A Surgical Mask

Surgical masks are coloured on ONE SIDE to make it easy for medical staff to figure out which side FACES OUT.

Whether they are coloured blue, green or pink, the COLOURED SIDE is meant to face OUTWARDS.

If the mask you are using has no colour, then it is NOT a 3-ply surgical mask – just a simple 2-ply face mask that is meant to maintain hygiene in a clean room or kitchen.

Recommended : Fact Check : Prolonged Use of Face Mask Causes Hypoxia!


The Filter Is Always The Middle Layer

The hoax falsely claims that the white layer is the filter.

A 3-ply surgical mask has three layers :

  • an outer hydrophobic layer, which repels water, blood and body fluids,
  • a middle filter layer that is designed to filter bacteria, and
  • an inner hydrophilic layer, which absorbs water, sweat and spit

In a 2-ply face mask, both layers are usually made from the same material – fabric or polypropylene or other kinds of non-woven material. There is NO FILTER layer. They are usually used in spas and restaurants.

Recommended : Hand Sanitiser vs Soap : Which Should We Use?


Why It’s Important To Wear A Surgical Mask Correctly

The middle filter works no matter which way you wear the surgical mask, so the hoax is complete hogwash.

However, wearing it the wrong way will reduce your comfort as you will be exhaling into the outer hydrophobic (water-repelling) layer, instead of the inner absorbent layer.

Those working with actual patients will want to wear it correctly too, because the outer water-repelling layer will help prevent blood and other bodily fluids from soaking through to the filter.


How To Wear A Surgical Mask Correctly

Here are some step-by-step instructions for wearing a surgical mask correctly :

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water, or hand sanitiser, before touching the mask
  2. Hold the mask so that the stiff bendable strip is on top, and the coloured side facing outwards.
  3. If the surgical mask has ear loops
    – hold the mask by the ear loops, and place a loop around each ear.
  4. If the surgical mask has ties
    – bring the mask to your nose and place the ties over the crown of your head,
    – then secure the mask by tying them in a bow.
  5. If the surgical mask has elastic bands
    – bring the mask to your nose and pull the top band over your head, and let it rest on the crown of your head,
    – pull the bottom strap over your head and let it rest on the nape of your neck.
  6. Mould or pinch the nose strip to conform to the shape of your nose.
  7. Pull the bottom of the surgical mask over your mouth and chin.

Recommended : Surgical Mask : How To CORRECTLY Wear + Remove!


How To Remove A Surgical Mask Correctly

After use, the surgical mask will be dirty and contaminated and must be removed and disposed of properly.

So please follow these instructions, to avoid infecting yourself while removing your mask :

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water, or hand sanitiser, before touching the mask.
  2. AVOID touching the front of the mask, because it is contaminated. Only touch the ear loops / ear ties / ear bands.
  3. If the surgical mask has ear loops – hold and unhook both ear loops and gently lift the mask away from your face.
  4. If the surgical mask has ties – untie the bottom bow first, followed by the top bow, before pulling the mask away from your face
  5. If the surgical mask has elastic bands – lift the bottom strap over your head first, and then pull the top strap over your head
  6. Holding the mask only by the ear loops / ear ties / ear bands, dispose of the mask in the trash.
  7. Clean your hands with soap and water, or hand sanitiser again, before touching anything else.

Recommended : Soap vs Sanitiser : Which Works Better Against COVID-19?


Surgical Mask : Where To Buy?

Now, we have to point out that surgical masks cannot filter air pollution, especially the dangerous PM2.5 particulates.

Surgical masks are designed to filter out bacteria, not tiny particulates in air pollution.

But if you want to buy surgical masks, make sure they are proper 3-layer surgical masks, and not 2-ply face masks. Here are some online purchase links :


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