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COVID-19 Preventative Measures: Bandanas As Cloth Face Coverings



Authors as Published

Renee Boyer, Professor and Extension Specialist, Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech; and Ben Chapman, Professor and Food Safety Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University

Cloth face coverings can be an effective way of preventing spread of infectious diseases. Bandanas are used over the mouth and nose of a person who is or might be infected to catch particles from a cough or sneeze. Face coverings provide the best protection to the wearer if they are 1) the right type for the situation, 2) worn properly and 3) handled properly. Wearing a cloth face covering can decrease risk but does not provide complete protection. Other risk reduction measures should also be followed, like physical distancing, handwashing and hand sanitizer usage, and avoiding touching eyes, mouth and nose.


  • In some settings, a bandana may be the most readily available fabric for a cloth face covering and can be worn in several different ways.
  • Bandanas as cloth face coverings should be folded into multiple layers.
  • It is also possible to fold around a replaceable filter.
    • Household air filters can be trimmed and used as replaceable filter inserts. Do not use air filters made with fiberglass. Filters may be found at department or home improvement stores.


  • Cloth face coverings can be uncomfortable to wear. A proper fit is tight over the nose, mouth and chin.
    • Shaving is not necessary.
  • Cloth face coverings can help reduce disease transmission but wearing one does not provide absolute protection.
  • According to CDC, wear bandanas whenever interacting with the public or when caring for someone who is sick or may be infected.
  • It is not necessary to wear a face covering while at home or outside for exercise.


  • Bandanas can trap moisture with use, so it is best to have several on hand to use throughout the day.
  • Bandanas should be handled assuming they are contaminated with the virus causing COVID-19.
    • Bandanas should be removed without touching the inside. They should be immediately placed with dirty laundry, or stored in a plastic bag until they can be properly cleaned.
  • Wash your hands after handling a used face covering or use hand sanitizer if hand washing is not an option. If possible, wash your face after removing a bandana.
  • Bandanas should be washed at the hottest setting for the fabric and dried thoroughly before the next wear.
  • Washing is more effective than heat alone, so bandanas should not be heated in microwave or conventional ovens.
an illustration showing the way to fold a plain bandana
an illustration showing a way to fold a bandana with hair ties or rubber bands

Option 1 shows how to fold a plain bandana. Option 2 uses hair ties or rubber bands to create ear loops for a tighter fit.

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Updated April 27, 2020

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Publication Date

April 16, 2020