Masks are effective only if you wear them properly. Here’s the right (and wrong) way

(CNN)So, about masks — they do next to nothing if you don’t wear them properly.Yep, even the cloth coverings touted as the best thing since social distancing have instructions. We’ve laid them out below, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.And remember: Masks are effective only if they cover your mouth, nose and chin. And however tempting it may be to remove your mask for a moment, doing that could expose your fingers and face to the very virus you’re trying to avoid.Keep that and more in mind when wearing your mask — If we all do it right, we could save 33,000 lives.

How to properly wear a mask

Wash your hands and grab a clean cloth mask.

  • Follow the steps to properly wash hands. (If you’ve forgotten the multi-step process, read our refresher here.
  • Only wear clean, breathable face masks. Re-wearing the same mask could expose you to contaminants.

Put on your mask, holding it by the ear loops.

  • Your mask should also fit snugly against the sides of your face — no open flaps. But it shouldn’t be so tight that it’s difficult to breathe through.
  • Your mask may have a wired side, meant to adhere to the shape of your nose. Press down on it over your nose for a more comfortable fit.

Make sure your nose, mouth and chin are covered.

  • If your mask has pleats, they should open downward.
  • Pull your mask up so it covers your nose, and tug it down so it covers your mouth.
  • After you’ve put your mask on, don’t touch it again until it’s time to take it off.

How not to wear a mask

Beware of these three familiar mask mistakes:1. It’s too loose.If your mask has large openings around your nose, mouth and the sides of your face, it can’t effectively protect you from viruses that can slip through those cracks. Your mask should fit snugly against your face.2. You forgot your noseYour nose needs to stay inside your mask — the virus is respiratory and travels through the air, and you could breathe it in.3. You put it back on and touched it. You shouldn’t take your mask off for a break when you’re still in public. It’s hot, sure, but it’s also possible you could contaminate your mouth or face with any germs your mask caught.

How to properly take off your mask

Take off your mask by the ear loops.

  • When your voyage into the public world is complete, remove your mask by the ear loops only.
  • Don’t touch the front of your mask — it could be contaminated.
  • Make sure you hold the mask away from your face as you remove it.

Store your mask immediately

  • If you’re not immediately going to wash your mask after you use it, place it in a clean, resealable plastic bag. Pick it up by the ear loops to place it inside the bag, and store the bag in a cool, clean place.

Wash your hands again … and again …

  • It’s become a pandemic mantra — wash your hands immediately after removing the mask. Wash your hands while you’re wearing it, too. Just wash your hands often and thoroughly when you’re out in the world and when you return, and you’ll weaken the chances the virus will stick around.