A Guide To Cleaning and Sterilizing Your Face Mask
Owing to the global coronavirus pandemic, health experts now recommend that everyone should use a face mask when leaving the house. The hope is that this simple intervention can make a dent in the spread of contagious COVID-19 virus by people with no symptoms or extremely mild ones.
While disposable face masks are good for one-time use, you can re-wear certain face masks such as cotton mask over and over again as long as you wash them on a regular basis and ensure it stays sanitary.
So, whether you bought an organic cotton mask or of any other reusable fabric online or quickly crafted your own at home, it’s crucial to clean your face mask regularly, and here are few useful tips on how you can do it.
Experts recommend washing face masks after each use.
After you have worn it outside, wash it before the next time you will be in public settings such as grocery stores, where you could come into contact with germs.
In case you are not leaving your house too often, a weekly wash will suffice for most people. However, make sure to wash your face mask immediately if you have been in contact with or near someone with coronavirus symptoms.
None of the leading health authorities around the world have issued any specific instructions about cleaning a face mask. Hence, there is no standard method or single answer, here are a few different ways to wash your face mask at home.
1. Soap up
Your mask is going to be covered in everything that comes out of your mouth and it would probably not smell too good by the end of the day. Also, if you have sensitive or oily skin complexion, then you will want to clean your face mask more often to prevent the fabric from irritating your skin. Rinse your mask in warm (around 80 degrees) soapy water and make sure you thoroughly wash all parts of the fabric and elastic without soaking the mask through. Once done, let your face mask dry naturally on a disinfected surface.
If you are one of those living in homes with the bare minimum of appliances, and cannot risk a trip to the laundromat to wash a face mask, this is indeed the best way to clean your face mask at home.
2. Machine Wash
Experts suggest cleaning your face mask in your washing machine as you would wash your daily garments. Firstly, wash your face mask with detergent and hot water, and then put it in the dryer of the machine on a hot cycle.
In case you are planning to throw your used face mask in the laundry with the rest of your clothes, consider putting it in a delicate bag or a small mesh bag first to avoid any damage to its fabric.
Additionally, if your washing machine has allergen and sanitization settings, then nothing like it. However, don’t fret if your washer doesn’t have these special sanitization settings, as the mechanical action of the washer, tossing the clothes and having them rub against each other along with the detergent will still do the trick and kill the viruses, with the warm cycle taking care of the rest.
3. Use Mask Wipes
This method is not preferred for cloth or cotton face masks, but for times when not at home and you can’t get to a sink or washing machine, you can use a sanitizing wipe designed for face masks.
When used on your face mask, these wipes would kill bacteria and other germs. Also, these wipes are alcohol and solvent-free and are safe for your skin.
However, make sure you use this method of cleaning your face mask as a last resort and wash your mask with soap or in the laundry as soon as you get a chance.
4. Boiling Face Mask
If you do not have a fabric washer available at your disposal, cleaning your mask with soapy water is absolutely fine. But if you are symptomatic and living with family or friends, you might want to be a little more rigorous. In that case, boiling your mask could be a good option.
Use a large pot with enough water to make sure it doesn’t all evaporate away. Leave the mask in the water for several minutes and swirl it around occasionally with tongs.
Some of these cleaning methods are quite hard on fabrics such as using hot water breaks down fibers more quickly or daily machine wash can damage your mask. Some simple tricks such as using a mesh laundry bag may help protect it from some of the twistings and turning that can happen as the washer of the machine rotates. However, if you feel that the fabric is too harsh or notice holes in your mask, it’s time to immediately replace it.
It does not matter if you have a cotton mask or of any other type or make, one crucial thing to remember: Once you get back into your own home, treat the fabric as if it’s contaminated with the virus and handle it very carefully. If you touch the outside of your mask which has been exposed and then touch your face or objects around your home, you may put yourself and your family at even greater risk of exposure than you would by simply walking around bare-faced.
Remove your mask from behind and make sure you don’t touch the contaminated outer surface of the front of the mask. Also, avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes, and wash your hands immediately with soap and water for twenty seconds after removing it and tossing it in the bag or for cleaning.
Essential tips to remember while buying a face mask:
Health experts suggest that the most effective fabrics for face masks are the ones that are water-resistant and tightly-woven. Hence, avoid buying masks made with the material that is not stretchy or sheer. A tightly-woven washable cotton face mask is the best option.
Make sure your face mask has fastenings and ties that keep it firmly in place while you breathe, talk and move, and covers your nose and mouth properly.
Keep in mind that the face mask you choose is designed with a stretchable band to minimize gaps between your nose and cheeks.
Choose eco-friendly masks that are easy to sanitize by boiling or throwing in the washing machine such as an organic cotton mask. It should not have any delicate materials or embellishments like sequins as they provide surfaces that germs can linger on for days.