So, by now you’ve probably heard that the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public; in some cases, depending on your location, it may even be mandatory to do so! It has been shown that “cloth face coverings can slow the spread of a virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.” Since so many of us are turning to non-medical grade masks purchased from makers & small businesses on sites like Etsy (or maybe you’re making them yourself) it’s so important to understand the proper way to wear and clean these masks!
According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
CDC Pro Tip: Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing.
Washing Your Mask.
Not only do these masks need to fit properly, you also can’t forget that they need to be cleaned… OFTEN! The CDC recommends washing your mask at least once a day. “It should be washed typically when you are done with it,” said Rodney Rohde, associate dean for research at the College of Health Professions at Texas State University.
- Washing Machine: According to the CDC, a washing machine should suffice in properly cleaning a face covering but it isn’t your only option!
- Boiling: Another easy way to sanitize your mask is to let it sit in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Hand Washing: If had washing is your only option, Emily de Golian, a board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology Consultants in Georgia, suggests choosing the warmest appropriate water setting, lathering masks with soap and scrubbing them for at least 20 seconds.
Drying Your Mask.
“Washing should be followed by hot air drying,” says Robert Amler, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College and a former CDC chief medical officer. You will want to dry your mask on the highest possible heat setting; this will be dependent on the materials used to make your mask! For added peace of mind, Dimitar Marinov, assistant professor in the department of hygiene at the Medical University of Varna, reminds us that we can also disinfect masks by ironing or putting them in an oven for 20 minutes at about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Caring for and Storing Your Mask.
No mater how you choose to clean your mask, you also need to remember that these masks do have a shelf life! After each wash you will need to inspect the mask carefully. Hold it up to a light source to check it for thinning fabric or holes. Viruses are TINY which means they can slip through loose woven or damaged fabric. Rachel Noble, a microbiologist and professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recommends not boiling your mask more than 10 times.
“Cloth face masks are going to have a lifetime—they deteriorate the same way your bed sheets fall apart wash, after wash, after wash,”Rachel Noble, Microbiologist and professor at UNC Chapel Hill
No matter how good you are about cleaning your masks, you also need to store them properly between uses. Once your mask is clean and dry, store it in a clean plastic zip-loc or Tupperware container by itself until you are ready to use it.
Until next time, stay safe and healthy! x The Pink Sheep x