8 Tips for Keeping Your Face Mask Clean & Working Properly
1. Skip the Fabric Softener/Bleach/Ammonia
Fabric softener, bleach and ammonia can irritate your skin or your respiratory system, do not use these products when washing your masks.
While bleach is great to sanitize hard surfaces or for cleaning towels or bedding, it is not recommended for your face masks. You will be breathing through the mask, often for long periods of time, using harsh chemicals can impact your ability to breath through the mask. Fabric softener leaves behind a chemical residue that can also make breathing difficult or unpleasant.
2. Wash Regularly
It is recommended that you wash your mask after every use, even if you are using a mask with a filter. While the mask keeps the harmful airborne germs out of your respiratory system, the mask collects moisture from your breath, sweat, skin oils, and make up inside the mask that can lead to bacteria growth.
3. Use Hot Water
Heat destroys viruses, washing your mask in hot water will disinfect it more effectively than cold water does. The World Health Organization testing showed water temperatures of 132.8° F effectively killed the coronavirus that causes SARS, a virus similar to COVID-19.
Washing masks in a hot load of towels or bedsheets is acceptable or wash your mask by hand by using the warmest water that will not scald your hands and scrub the mask for 20 seconds.
4. Tumble Dry
Air drying masks may seem like a good idea to keep them from shrinking, but the CDC recommends drying cloth face masks completely in a hot dryer. For even more heat killing effectiveness, iron the fabric with a hot iron to help kill even more lingering germs.
5. Swap Out the Filter
Using HEPA filters, paper towels, coffee filters or charcoal filters help add an extra layer of protection, however, should be discard after every use. These filters assist in keeping out virus-carrying particles by capturing these particles. Re-using the filter increases the risk of contamination with the next use.
6. Use Multiple Masks
If you are only using a mask to run to the store or the occasional run out into the public, tossing it into the wash and cleaning it before your next trip out is not so bad. However, if you are an essential worker and must wear a mask all day, every day, rotating through several different masks is recommended (and is also easier as you won’t have to wash your mask every day!)
Several masks will also help keep just a couple masks from wearing out, washing too often can thin the fabric with makes it much less effective in catching airborne particles.
7. Don’t Wash Anyone Else’s Mask
The CDC recommends that the mask wearer should be the only one handling their mask. However, this is not always possible in a household and washing one single mask in the laundry is not a smart use of water or your money.
If you must wash masks with other masks that are not yours, wash in hot water and always wash your hands after handling the laundry.
8. Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands is the recommendation to keep yourself from getting sick. You should also wash your hands before you put on your face mask and immediately after you remove it, every time. This will prevent spreading germs even further.
Final Face Mask Tips
Wash your face mask with just a mild detergent and the hottest water you can, the sanitize cycle on the washing machine is recommended (if you have this cycle.)
Look for masks that are labeled “pre-shrunk” or “pre-washed” to avoid shrinking your mask in affecting the fit and shape of it, lowering your protection.