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Face masks and hand sanitiser consumer guide

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are all looking for hand sanitisers and face masks to protect ourselves and our families. Most products on the market are suitable, but fake or potentially unsafe products may be available. Follow this guide on what to use to help keep you safe.

If you are considering re-selling products, for example using online market places, we urge you not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices.

Face masks

There are several types of masks available. Some are medical devices or PPE for use in healthcare settings. For everyday use, the Government states a face covering is to be worn in certain settings. Face coverings should not be sold as PPE or medical devices and will not have a CE mark.

Parents and guardians are advised not to put masks on children under three years old as they may be a suffocation hazard.

If you make your own face coverings, you can find guidance at GOV.UK – Face coverings: when to wear one and how to make your own. This also includes cards you can show if you are exempt from wearing a face covering. For a simple guide to making a face covering, visit GOV.UK – How to make a cloth face covering.

When making a face covering:

  • make sure there are no sharp edges
  • ensure the covering is a good fit with no strangulation hazard from ear loops
  • don’t use buttons or beads as these could be a choking hazard
  • be aware of allergenic materials such as latex.

If you are buying disposable masks the packaging should include the type of mask, instructions for use and manufacturer information.

KN95 masks

The Health & Safety Executive has issued a safety alert for KN95 masks as they may not meet PPE standards.

Face visors

Visors are not an alternative to face coverings. They should only be worn as a face shield together with a face covering.

Hand sanitisers

Always buy hand sanitisers from a reputable business. When you are looking to buy hand cleaning products, you may either find soaps with an antibacterial property, or hand sanitisers which are classed as biocides.

Hand sanitisers should have at least 60% alcohol to be effective in protecting against viruses. If a hand sanitiser claims to kill a specifically named virus such as COVID-19, it is likely to be a medical-grade product.

Hand sanitiser labelling should mention the contact details of the supplier, the active ingredient (i.e. the percentage of alcohol), directions for use and any warnings.

Making your own hand sanitiser is not recommended, as only higher percentage alcohol will work (i.e. not widely found, off-the-shelf alcohol).