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Last updated on 30 December 2020

Face masks in the Netherlands: the ultimate FAQ - Updated April 2024

Face masks in the Netherlands: the ultimate FAQ - Updated April 2024

Welcome to our FAQ about mouth masks.

We are great fans of mouth masks because they allow us to keep our life going even in situations where social distancing is not possible. Plus, more and more research has proven them to be effective.

Remember though: wearing any kind of face mask is not meant to replace all the other safety measures such as social distancing, washing your hands with soap frequently, and generally avoid touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth.

This guide is for informational purposes only. Consult your local medical authority for health advice.

This FAQ is sponsored by Mondkatjes. We make fashionable face masks in The Netherlands.


Why face masks?

Are face masks effective against the Coronavirus? Or are face masks useless?

The World Health Organization (WHO) latest advice says governments should encourage the general public to wear non-medical masks in specific situations and settings.

The position of the WHO is based on recent studies and on the growing observational evidence in several countries. Wearing masks does help prevent COVID-19 transmission in areas where social distancing is not possible: public transport, shops, workplaces, churches and schools.

Face masks play two different yet related purposes: to protect who is wearing them, and to protect other people.

According to the Dutch Rijksoverheid, even non-medical masks play an important role: although they don’t offer a great protection for the wearer, they are effective at minimizing the number of droplets released in the air - up to 99 percent.

Reducing virus particles in the air provides two big benefits: people have a lower chance of getting infected, and if they do, a lower viral exposure load would more likely be leading to mild illness.

Why should I use a face mask?

In the Netherlands, you should wear a face mask to avoid a 95€ fine on public transport and in taxis, where it is mandatory since 1st June 2020.

Face masks in the Netherlands: practical info

Where are face masks mandatory in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands wearing a non-medical face mask is mandatory on buses, trains, trams, metros and on the ferry boats to the Wadden islands. These directions apply for people older than 13 and for public transport operators.

The Rijksoverheid also advises wearing a non-medical mask whenever maintaining a distance of 1,5 meters is not possible: in a car with people who belong to a different household (also taxis); in couches and in airplanes.

What kind of mask is mandatory on the OV in the Netherlands?

Since medical masks are reserved for healthcare professionals, the Rijksoverheid recommends the general public the use of non-medical masks. Non-medical masks do not necessarily have a filter, and can be made of cotton or fabric.

Non-medical masks do not need a CE certification, yet they need to be made of several layers in order to be effective. That is also why replacing a mask with a bandana, a scarf or a face shield is not allowed.

Do I need to wear a face mask also in the train station and on the platforms while waiting for the bus?

Wearing a mask is not needed at the bus stop or in the train stations in the Netherlands. While waiting for public transport it is possible to consume snacks and drinks, before getting on the OV.

Since when are face masks mandatory in the OV in the Netherlands? Until when?

The use of face masks on public transports is mandatory in the Netherlands since 1st June 2020. The Rijksoverheid has not communicated an end date yet.

Where can I buy a non-medical mask in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, non-medical masks are commonly available in supermarkets and drugstores.

In train stations, protective masks can be bought at AKO, Kiosk, Albert Heijn, Hema and Etos.

On the platforms it is possible to buy non-medical masks at the vending machines.

Finally it is possible to buy face masks online. This FAQ is sponsored by Mondkatjes. We make trendy face masks in The Netherlands.

Are face masks mandatory in shops in the Netherlands?

In Dutch shops wearing a mask is not required, though in July 2020 it has become a requirement in the shops of neighbouring countries such as Belgium, Germany, France and the UK.

Are face masks mandatory in shops in Germany?

In Germany it is mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport and in shops from April 2020. Although the lifting of such requirements has been considered in order to help the businesses highly impacted by the COVID19 pandemic, in July 2020 the health ministers of the 16 German states agreed to actually extend the measures for the foreseeable future.

Are face masks mandatory in shops in France?

In France masks are mandatory on public transport, and since July 2020 also in all enclosed public spaces. The French government set a fine of €135 for anyone caught without a face mask.

Are face masks mandatory in shops in the UK?

In the UK wearing a face mask in shops is compulsory since the 24th of July 2020. The requirement applies to customers and not necessarily to shop workers.

People are allowed to remove the covering in places where masks aren’t practical, such as pubs and restaurants.

Where can I buy face masks in Amsterdam?

Face masks are mandatory on Amsterdam’s public transport. You can find non-medical masks in the supermarkets or at AKO, HEMA, Etos.

What types of face masks?

Which face masks work best?

Both non-medical face masks and surgical masks are not very effective at protecting the wearer: their main function is to prevent droplets and aerosol from spreading in the air, and therefore to protect others.

Only FFPs (filtering facepiece) are certified to filter the passage of aerosol to the inside.

The Rijksoverheid advises the general public in The Netherlands to use non-medical face masks, while medical masks (FFPs and surgical) are reserved for healthcare professionals.

Non-medical masks can be very effective against the spread of the coronavirus among a group of people if everyone wears them, since the spread of droplets would be limited.

There is evidence, says Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead, that non-medical face masks with at least three layers of different materials "can actually provide a mechanistic barrier that if someone were infected with COVID-19, you can prevent those droplets from going through and infecting someone."

What are medical masks?

Medical masks are the ones used by healthcare professionals, such as FFP2 or surgical masks.

They are made of several layers, at least one of which must be water repellent in order to prevent the in-and-out flow of fluids. They are especially effective in filtering the leakage of liquids towards the outside, and therefore in protecting other people.

How to recognize a medical mask?

Always look for the CE marking, the certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area.

Medical masks

Does a surgical mask protect against the coronavirus?

Surgical masks aren’t very effective in filtering droplets towards the inside, but are very useful if everyone in a group wears them, since the flow of droplets is largely contained.

Should I buy a medical or non-medical mask in the Netherlands?

As stated by the Rijksoverheid, medical masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals in the Netherlands.

The Rijksoverheid recommends using a non-medical mask instead.

The WHO, on the other hand, recommends the use of medical masks to people aged over 60 as well as for people with underlying comorbidities.

What does FFP stand for?

FFP stands for filtering face piece. FFP1, FFP2, FFP3 are three levels of filtration efficiency defined as part of the standard European standard EN 14683, approved in 2009.

What is the difference between FFP1, FFP2, FFP3?

As per the EU standard guidelines:

  • FFP1 masks are the least filtering with 20% of aerosol leakage to the inside. Before the pandemic, these masks were mainly used as dust masks.

  • FFP2 masks allow a maximum of 8% of aerosol leakage to the inside and are commonly used in construction, but also by healthcare professionals.

  • FFP3 masks are the most effective, letting only 1% of aerosol leaking in and are mainly used in the chemical industry.

What is the difference between FFP2 and N95?

N95 and N99 are standards defined by the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety. The filter performance of an FFP2 is close to an N95, and an FFP3 performs similarly to an N99.

Do masks with a valve work against the coronavirus?

Masks that have a plastic valve allow the exhaled breath to bypass the filter and are designed for workers who wear them for long hours. While they might protect the wearer, they do not protect others. That makes them useless to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Non-medical reusable masks

Do fabric masks protect against the coronavirus?

While non-medical face masks are less effective than FFPs or surgical masks, they can still be very useful to prevent the spreading of the virus in situations when social distancing is not possible.

The latest WHO guidance recommends that non-medical face masks consist of a minimum of three layers of different materials:

  • an inner layer of a hydrophilic material like cotton;

  • a middle hydrophobic layer of synthetic non-woven material such as polypropylene to enhance filtration or retain droplets;

  • an outer layer made of hydrophobic material like polyester, to limit external contamination.

The best non-medical reusable face masks come with a pocket where it is possible to insert additional disposable filters to enhance the mask's effectiveness.

Are reusable masks more convenient than disposable ones?

People who travel often with public transport or who are often in situations where a mask is required, might prefer a reusable, washable face mask. That is the most convenient choice in terms of price and the friendliest for the environment. Still, reusable masks need to be washed after every usage and should come with multiple layers, following the guidance of the WHO.

Should washable face masks have the CE certification?

Unlike medical masks, non-medical washable reusable masks do not need the CE certification mark.

'How-to' guide to face masks

How to use a reusable face mask

Reusable face masks must be used with care:

  • First, wash your hands before touching the mask;

  • Handle the mask by its ear loops, never by the main body;

  • Do not keep touching the mask once you have it on, especially with dirty hands; this is meant to minimize the risk of infection.

  • Hold the mask by the ear loops to remove it; then wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.

  • Reusable mouth masks must be washed after every usage.

How to put a face mask on

Your hands must be clean before touching a new or freshly washed mouth mask. Handle the mask by its ear loops; never touch the main body.

Once the mask is on, make sure that it fits your face well. Face masks with a metal nose strip can be shaped for a better fit on the upper part.

How to put a face mask on

How to wear a face mask properly: should a face mask cover my nose or only my mouth?

A face mask must cover both your mouth and nose, fitting your face from chin to nose. Wearing a mask with the nose out does not protect you or others and it is therefore useless.

How to wear a face mask properly

How to adjust a face mask while you are wearing it

Never touch the main body of the mask while wearing it, especially with the hands dirty. Always use the side ear loops to adjust the mask, making sure that it fits the face well without making it hard to breath.

Taking a face covering on and off can also increase the risk of contamination, the WHO says.

How do I adjust my mask while I am wearing it?

How to remove a face mask

Handle the mask by the side ear loops to remove it; do not touch the main part of the mask, not even the inner side: it has to stay clean in case you want to put it on again.

Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching the mask.

How do I remove a face mask?

Where to throw a used disposable face mask

You can throw a used disposable mask in the residual waste. Look for the grey containers in the stations and on the platforms of public transport.

How to wear a face mask with glasses

Here is a tip to wear a face mask while also wearing glasses, and prevent these from fogging. Before putting the mask on, rub some soap - or even better, shaving foam - on the lenses. Then wipe with a soft fabric. The detergent produces a protective layer which prevents any steam from forming.

How to wear a face mask with a beard

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have made a comprehensive infographic showing the facial hairstyles that are compatible with filtering facepiece respirators. Make sure to check it out.

I have trouble breathing with a face mask. What can I do?

First of all, make sure that you are wearing the mask properly. While leaving the nose out is not a solution, you can choose a face mask that, while protective, is made for optimal breathability and comfort.

How long can I wear a face mask?

Common face masks should not be worn for more than 3-4 hours. While breathing moisture and dirt accumulate, which can promote the proliferation of bacteria and other harmful agents.

Do not put a mask on if it looks sweaty or dirty. In such a case the mask needs to be thrown away, or washed.

Where to keep a face mask while not using it

In many European cities face masks are required in shops, bars, offices and in other situations where no social distancing can be kept. That means that you would have to put the mask on and off multiple times; where to store it while not wearing it?

While you are not wearing a face mask, you can store it inside a plastic or paper bag for short periods before using it again.

Where shall I keep my face mask while I am not using it?

How NOT to use a face mask

The WHO advocates against the creative usage of face masks:

  • A face mask shouldn’t be worn under the chin, where sweat and dirt also ends. If you are in a bar having a drink, just keep the mask in your hand making sure to hold it by the earloops. Do wash your hands before putting the mask back on.

  • To take your mask temporarily off, do not store it over the elbow nor hang it to your ear; that would expose the inner side to dirt. There’s also the risk that the mask falls to the ground. In such a case do not put your mask back on.

How NOT to use a face mask

How to wash a reusable face mask

Wash your reusable masks with soap and water; you can also put it in the wash machine with detergent at 40 °C. It is not advised to put a face mask in the dryer.

How do I wash a reusable face mask?

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