The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended wearing face masks in public to slow the spread of Covid-19. It is important to know how to properly wash, disinfect, and handle reusable cloth masks. Pathogens like bacteria and viruses can live on cloth fabric for longer than we may think – 8 to 12 hours. Because we do not know what germs we’ve been in contact with or how long the germs have been active on the cloth fibers in our mask, it is crucial to regularly wash, sanitize, and dry reusable masks.
Follow these steps to clean your masks:
- Remove detachable parts like interior filters or elastic ear bands from a folded scarf/bandana before washing.
- Use a mesh laundry bag to reduce entanglement with other clothes during the wash.
- Set machine water temperature too high or use water that is 140 degrees or higher. Use your washer’s “sanitize” cycle if it has one.
- Add a detergent that contains disinfectant or bleach to ensure you are killing as many germs as possible. If you are washing by hand prepare a bleach solution (5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water), soak for at least 5 minutes, and rinse thoroughly.
- Dry masks on the highest dryer setting or air dry in direct sunlight. Because household dryers’ temperatures rarely reach the threshold temperature you need for disinfection, consider adding a disinfectant dryer sheet to the load. Also, ultra-violet light from the sun can kill up to 99.99% of pathogens on the mask. Turn the mask over halfway through the drying process or hang them. They need to stay out in the sun for at least an hour.
Face mask hygiene:
- Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on your mask.
- Make sure your mask is facing the right direction, so your face is not touching the mask exterior.
- Wear your mask snuggly over both your nose and mouth.
- Try not to touch the mask while you are wearing it.
- When removing the mask, touch only the attached strings or elastic bands. Hold it or place the mask on a sanitized surface until you are ready to wear it again or throw it directly into the washing machine when you get home.
- Finally, wash your hands again.