Mask types and how to choose them

Ideally, you should wear a medical procedural mask. Non-medical masks and face coverings are suitable for public places.

For people who need to isolating at home, if possible, try to wear a medical procedural mask. For those who are unable to obtain a medical procedural mask, a non-medical mask is acceptable. A final option could be to wear a face covering without an expiratory valve.

The type of mask worn by a person and their contacts is a factor considered by Public Health in assessing the risk of exposure to determine whether, and for how long, the person’s contacts must be isolated.

Procedural mask

A procedural mask refers to a medical procedural mask or a non-medical procedural mask that is secured behind the ears with elastic loops.

There are two types of procedural masks: the medical procedural mask and the non-medical procedural mask. It is impossible to distinguish medical procedural masks from non-medical procedural masks (disposable masks) based only on their appearance.

Medical procedural mask

Medical procedural masks have undergone testing to certify their effectiveness. To certify the level of quality of a medical procedural mask, the package labelling must include the words medical mask or surgical mask and must indicate that it meets the ASTM F2100 or the Type IIR EN 14683 standard. Some packaging marked “For non-medical use” may also certify the mask’s quality and compliance with the same standards.

Certain masks with a transparent window may also be medical procedural masks.

Medical procedural masks are provided at health care facilities and schools, and should be available in all work environments for as long as required under the Workplace Guide to Sanitary Standards of the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).

These masks are available at most pharmacies and may be available at other retail stores. They can also be ordered online.

Non-medical procedural mask

Non-medical procedural masks are singleuse disposable masks that resemble medical procedural masks but without a declaration of compliance with a recognized standard (ASTM F2100 or Type IIR EN 14683). They are generally identified on the label as being for non-medical use, with no mention of standards.

The effectiveness of these masks varies.

Non-medical procedural masks are available for purchase at pharmacies and other retail stores.

They are generally less expensive than medical procedural masks.

Face covering

Face coverings (also called handcrafted masks) are washable and reusable fabric masks with ties or elastic ear loops that can be adjusted to fit the head.

Their features are outlined on the How to make a face covering page. The performance of face coverings is variable.

Face coverings may be manufactured by a company and sold on the Internet and at many types of retail stores. Prices vary. Some models of commercial face coverings feature a window.

Face coverings may also be homemade (handcrafted masks). You can make your own face covering with a window. For different easy-to-make models, see the How to make a face covering page.

Masks and face covering with a clear window

You can wear a face covering that has a clear window in order to promote communication with hearing impaired people, people learning the language, people with intellectual disabilities, an autism spectrum disorder or a cognitive impairment, for example. There are a few commercial models of face covering with a clear window and it is also possible to make one yourself (the steps are described in the How to make a mask or a face covering page).

To help you recognize someone who is hearing impaired and to facilitate communication with them, by wearing a mask or face covering, see the Mask or face covering: how to communicate more effectively with people who are hearing impaired (COVID-19) page.

Last update: May 28, 2021

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Information on the website in no way replaces the opinion of a health professional. If you have questions concerning your health status, consult a professional.

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