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Best Ways to Keep Your Cloth Face Mask Clean

While surgical masks and N-95 masks provide the best protection from the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not recommend this for general use as these are critical supplies and should be reserved for health care workers and other first responders.

Karen Cruz
Karen Cruz

Wearing face masks in public places, especially when it is impossible to do social distancing, can protect you from the spread of COVID-19. While surgical masks and N-95 masks provide the best protection from the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not recommend this for general use as these are critical supplies and should be reserved for health care workers and other first responders. Instead, CDC recommends using cloth face masks. Since it has evolved into an everyday wear, it is a must to know the proper care for your face mask.

Bleach and Water Solution

Cleaning your face masks doesn’t require you tons of fancy ingredients of formula. The CDC recommends washing the mask by hand with a simple bleach solution which you can prepare by a mixture of five tablespoons (⅓ cup) of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water or four teaspoons household bleach per quart of room temperature water. Check the label of the bleach if it is intended for disinfection.

Pour the bleach solution in a tub or a bowl. Using a pair of disposable gloves, soak your face mask in the solution for at least five minutes. Rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature water. You can use two ways to dry the face mask. One is through a machine dryer. Leave your mask in the dryer and use the highest heat setting and let it dry completely. Another is by air drying.  Simply find an area to lay the mask flat, preferably in direct sunlight allow to dry completely.

Warm Soapy Water

Being the easiest to clean and to dry properly are just a few of the advantages of using a cloth face mask. While bleach works great for sanitizing beddings and cleaning towels or hard surfaces, it can sometimes be a respiratory irritant. It may gentler on your skin to use a solution of warm water and soap to wash the face mask material.

Washing Machine

You can always toss your face mask in the washer to clean it. Machine washing is sufficient. Spin the mask for a cycle in the washing machine, then put it in the dryer, place it on the hot setting. Ensure to use a strong detergent that can break down grime, oils, and sweat that may be clinging to the mask.

UV Sanitizer

UV (Ultraviolet) light is efficient in disinfecting your accessories, your phones, and many others - including your mask. Ensure to use a large UV sanitizing device enough to fit your mask completely since UV can only disinfect areas that it shines on. The tiny folds on your mask can cast a shadow on it, causing it to be prevented from being decontaminated.

There are other things that you should remember to keep your face mask sanitized. Dr. Ryan G. Sinclair, an Associate Professor in the Loma Linda University School of Public Health has come up with these face mask hygiene etiquette:

  1. Before putting on your mask, make sure your hands are sanitized by washing your hands or by using a hand sanitizer.
  2. Ensure that you are using the correct side of your mask so that the outside of it doesn’t touch your face.
  3. Make sure that your mask covers both your nose and your mouth.
  4. Try not to touch the mask while wearing it, especially the outside portion.
  5. Remove the mask by touching only the elastic bands or the attached strings on it. Keep your mask on a sanitized surface until you need to wear it again or throw it into the washing machine directly when you get home. Then wash your hands again.

In addition, Dr. Sinclair recommends frequent hand washing, sanitizing surfaces at home regularly, and to refrain from touching high-traffic public areas such as handrails, doorknobs, and counters. Dr. Sinclair advises everyone to practice these habits to less likely contract the virus, whether from the mask or from another surface.

With wearing cloth face masks being a part of our “new normal”, it does not totally shield us from the virus especially if we fail to care for it. Washing the mask is important although it may be more inconvenient than just using disposable masks. This little effort goes a long way to keep ourselves protected as we go on our daily lives during this pandemic situation.

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