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What the heck is doffing?

April 19, 2020


Someone mentioned I used the term doffing in one of my emails. She correctly mentioned that the term was likely lost on people. So, I thought I would take today to go over the correct way to put on, or to DON, and the correct way to remove, or to DOFF, a mask.

Here is the best video I was able to find that also was less than 2m.  

I’m going to assume this is a non-medical cloth mask, that you are reusing the mask, and that you are going into a non-medical area doing non-medical things. This is a sequence that is taking into account the real-world situation of going in and out of a grocery store for instance and is intended to be SIMPLE.  


  • Wash/sanitize hands

  • Put the mask on by touching only the loops/straps. Try not to touch the area on the mask that touches your face.  

  • Wash/sanitize hands

The key thing is to treat the outside of the mask as if it has virus on it. So your non-medical cloth mask should have a clear identifiable outside (to the world) and inside (touching your face). If you happen to be using a surgical mask, put the colored side out. That is the side that is impermeable to liquid. Many medical masks (or well made non-medical ones) will have a metal piece to form fit around the nose. So you will need to fit this to your face. If it is the first time you are wearing a mask, then you can touch the front safely and fit it to your nose. Advanced maneuver #21: Surgical masks fog up my glasses so I use a little paper tape to prevent that from occurring. See pic below of advance maneuver #21. I retouch the tape to form a seal every time but I also am cleaning my hands right after.  



  • Wash/sanitize hands

  • Remove the mask by only touching with the loops/straps. Try not to touch the area on the mask that touches your face.  

  • Wash/sanitize hands

Always treat the mask as if the outside of it has Corona on it. So, when I get back in my car, I doff the mask and put it on the passenger side floor. If you are going out of your house very infrequently and no one is shotgun, then, any virus on it should degrade after 2-3 days (to be safe). If you are going into multiple places make sure to treat the mask as if it has virus on the outside of it AND follow the above procedure each time.  

If you are able, I would wash the cloth mask when you get back home. Again, treat the mask as if it has virus on it when you bring it inside. So put it directly into the washing machine when you walk inside (do not place it on the kitchen counter etc). Of note, if you start watching a lof of doffing videos you will see people lean forward when they are taking off their head protection so the virus does not fall on their clothes. You can certainly make the above sequence more complex (and likely a little safer) but for the purposes of a non-medical relatively low-risk interaction, I think the above is likely good enough and an improvement over what most people are doing.   

If you have any topics you want me to riff on, just ask. 

Stay emotionally connected and physically distant,