With many people going back to work or school during the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing how to clean your cloth face mask is important. Most public places, like schools, colleges, and businesses, require people to wear masks while indoors. Reusable PPE masks reduce waste, and many of them add a stylish design to an outfit. It is important to know how to wash your face mask. Best of all, it prevents the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 and Face Masks
Research shows that when social distancing is not possible, wearing a face mask can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic, facial coverings were in short supply and needed to be reserved for medical professionals. Washing your face mask and wearing them regularly helps prevent respiratory droplets from crossing from one person to another, thus reducing the chances of spreading the deadly virus.
There have been several studies about the effectiveness of different types of face masks and about washing the face mask. The best advice is to wear a comfortable one. For non-medical purposes, the best choice is a surgical mask, but many people prefer to wear cloth masks because they are washable and reusable. The mask should cover the nose and mouth and be breathable, but not too porous so that droplets cannot cross through the fabric barrier.
How Many Face Masks Do I Need?
If you are using reusable masks, you will want at least two: one to wear and one to put in the laundry. But, if you cannot do laundry every day, you will want more than two. Some people have one for each day of the week, plus an extra to wear on laundry day.
How Often Should I Wash My Face Mask?
You should wash your PPE mask after you return home from work, school, or any other place where you have worn it where social distancing was not possible. The virus could be on your mask, so you should not wear it once you have removed it. Therefore, you should launder your mask after each time you wear it in public.
How Do I Clean & Disinfect My Face Mask?
Depending on the fabric, you should either machine-wash or hand-wash your mask. If you are wearing a blue and white surgical mask, you do not wash that; instead, you throw it away after one use. Unlike washing reusable masks, the surgical ones were not designed to be reused. Remember to remove disposable filters before washing your reusable face mask.
Interestingly, research shows that the best way to wash your face mask is through the use of a washing machine, laundry detergent, and finishing it with a spin in a dryer. You should use bleach if possible to help destroy viruses and bacteria that can harbor in the laundry. It’s the dryer that does the virus killing.
If you do use bleach, choose the most effective type. It should have 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite and be within the expiration date. Do not mix bleach with ammonia or another cleanser. Not all fabrics will tolerate the beach, so check the label on your clothing before you learn how to wash reusable, cloth face masks.
Your bleach solution should include ⅓ cup bleach per gallon of warm water or four TSP of bleach per quart of warm water. Many people will soak their masks for five minutes in the bleach solution before placing the mask in the washing machine or washing it by hand. Dispose of the solution when the soak is done and rinse the mask with cool water.
Using a Washing Machine
If you have a bandana or face covering made of cotton or other machine-washable fabric, caring for the face mask is easy. Use hot water when washing in the washing machine then put them in the dryer on the hottest setting. The heat will help kill the bacteria and viruses on the mask and your clothing. Some people do not like laundry-soap fragrances so close to their noses, so they use a fragrance-free detergent.
Cloth or reuseable face masks can be washed by hand. Use hot, soapy water to scrub the exposed side of the covering for at least 20 seconds and rinse with hot water. Then, use the dryer on the hottest setting. If you are washing by hand and using bleach, be sure you have adequate ventilation.
How to Dry Your Face Mask
Drying your mask is as easy as putting it in the dryer and setting it on the hottest temperature. You can let your mask air dry, but you should still put it in the dryer to benefit from the heat. Put the mask in the dryer for at least 28 minutes on the hottest setting to kill viruses and bacteria.
Many dryers come with timers, so you can set it to 28 minutes or longer. If you are worried about your mask becoming tangled with other items in the laundry, you could put them in a lingerie or delicates bags to isolate them. If you do not want to dry your mask in the dryer, hang it to dry in the sun. The ultraviolet light will help kill the virus.
Storing Your Face Mask
To prevent any viruses from getting on you and your belongings, take off the face mask and put it in a plastic or paper bag for the ride home. Only touch the earloops, never the outside of the covering. When you get home, remove the face mask for laundering then dispose of the storage bag. Wash your hands immediately after taking off the mask and removing it from the bag.
Once you have learned how to wash a cloth face mask, you can store them in any way that is convenient for you.