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Learn how to properly clean your mask with these tips from the experts on washing face masks AND sterilizing – what to do and what NOT to do!
How to Clean Your Face Mask
Now that many stores like Walmart require shoppers to wear face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19 – you may have purchased a few reusable face masks to have on hand. Masks are recommended for any public outings where you can't keep a 6 ft distance from others, so teachers and students are also going to need them as they head back to school.
What is the best way for washing face masks to keep them clean and sterile?
Here are some cleaning and handling tips that have been recommended by the CDC and Johns Hopkins infection prevention expert.
How to Wash Your Face Mask
There are a few effective ways for washing face masks – here are the top 3 most widely recommended! Before washing your cloth mask, make sure to remove any paper or other face mask filters. (Do not wash disposable paper surgical masks!)
- Place in the washing machine and wash on warmest setting appropriate for your fabric
- You can include the mask in with your regular loads of laundry
This is the easiest way and probably the best! You don't need any specialty laundry sanitizing products – just a good heavy duty detergent like Tide or Gain. Don't overuse detergent, because any residue left on the mask may get breathed in.
- Scrub your mask with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds and dry on high heat in the dryer
- If you air dry, try and do so in the sunshine
- Mix up a solution of 1 tsp household bleach/1 Qt of room temperature water
- Soak the face coverings for 5 minutes
- Rinse very thoroughly and dry
*Make sure to use a bleach that's made for disinfecting, some color-safe bleaches won't work the same.
Face Mask Storage
SO! Now that you know how to clean a face mask – how do you keep it clean for your next use? The best way to keep it clean for the next time you're ready to wear it, is to store in a ziploc bag or a lidded plastic container. It's a great idea to have several face masks so you can have a few backups all the time. Here's our best tips on where to buy face masks.
Unreliable Ways to Clean Your Mask
Now that we've gone over the best methods for properly cleaning your mask…. you might be wondering about some others you've heard of. Here's what the experts have to say about those.
Steaming or steam ironing does kill bacteria and sanitize, however you'd have to be very sure the steam penetrated all parts of the mask, fabric folds, etc for the proper length of time to really consider your mask disinfected. It's not a fully reliable option.
Boiling WILL actually work to disinfect your cloth masks – but will shorten the lifespan of the fabric quite a bit. Popular Science warns that if you do choose to boil to disinfect, don't do it more than 10 times.
Microwaving and Oven-Baking
Some viral posts have been circulating suggesting that you should microwave your face mask in a plastic baggy for 3 minutes or pop it in your oven. Unfortunately microwaving and oven-baking have led to catching masks on fire (eeek!), especially those with metal nose-pieces. At the very least these methods degrade the fabric of your mask.
The folds and pleats in face masks make this another unreliable option because the UV Light may not reach and irradiate the entire surface of the mask.
How to Wear a Face Mask
Now that you know how to clean your face mask, here's a refresher on how to properly wear a mask:
- Wash your hands before putting on your mask
- Only handle it by the ear loops or ties
- Make sure the mask covers mouth, nose and chin
- Make sure you can breathe and talk comfortably
- Don't touch your mask while wearing it (but if you do, make sure to sanitize your hands afterwards)
- When removing your face mask, handle it only by the earloops or ties and wash hands afterwards
- Clean your mask after each wearing
New Walmart Face Mask Requirement (Also Target, Aldi, Home Depot & More)