The No. 1 Way to Clean Your Face Mask
Washing your face mask isn't all that different from washing your other clothes.
Face masks have become a vital part of our everyday lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states have even required residents to wear them while out in public. And while these masks can make for barriers against the spread of the coronavirus, they only continue to work effectively if they are not damaged or contaminated. That means knowing how to clean your face mask.
So while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of cloth face masks for slowing the spread of COVID-19, those masks need to be sterile in order to protect you. And according to the University of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics, that starts with making sure you are properly cleaning your mask.
So, how do you clean your face mask? According to the CDC, it's not much different from how you would wash your own clothes: You can simply use mild detergent and water to clean your cloth face mask. Heat helps when it comes to sanitizing materials to kill the coronavirus, so the CDC recommends that people "launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items" when hand washing their mask or running it through a washing machine.
But are there alternative ways to clean your face mask that don't involve taking the time to wash it in a machine or by hand? According to Keane Veran, co-founder and CEO of OURA, a company that specializes in creating antimicrobial products, no. Not only are methods such as spraying disinfectants onto your mask harmful to you—you'd be inhaling those chemicals—but these alternative sanitizing methods can also destroy your face mask.
"Several methods of decontamination or sterilization such as heating and spraying chemicals are ineffective," he explains. "These masks should not be microwaved or heated as it melts the structure. People think spraying ethanol or strong chemicals on their mask will kill the virus currently on the mask, but the ethanol will also degrade the mask which actually renders it ineffective."
When it comes to drying your mask, the CDC says you can use a machine drier, but you can also let your mask air-dry if you don't have access to one. Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, who works in private practice at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care in Beverly Hills, notes that you have to let your mask dry out completely before using it again, as a wet mask is "no longer effective" in filtering out the virus.
Shainhouse also stresses the importance of keeping your hands clean when handling your face mask—washing your hands before you put on your mask, as well as before and after you remove it.
As for how often you should wash your face mask, the Mayo Clinic recommends face masks be washed every day. While the CDC says that you "should be the only person handling your covering," you can share a mask with someone, but only after it's been completely washed and dried first. And to make sure you're using your mask effectively, learn the 7 Precautions You Must Take Before Wearing a Mask.