How to Wash a Cloth Face Covering

Posted by Printed Kicks Team on

How to Wash a Cloth Face Covering

In these unprecedented times, we’ve all had to alter our everyday lives and develop new routines and habits to deal with the coronavirus. For most people, their normal way of life has been flipped completely upside down. One of the biggest adjustments we’ve all had to make as a society is wearing cloth face masks regularly in public. 

Face coverings have been deemed a symbol of safety during the pandemic, based on information from the CDC. Most states around the United States implemented some form of a mandate for wearing one in order to slow the spread of Covid-19. For this reason, until the pandemic ceases, it is wise to keep a fresh supply of masks around while you're engaging in social distancing protocols. 

Yet, with how frequently we have to wear face coverings, you might find yourself at times running out of clean masks to wear. You can always buy new masks, but that can quickly get expensive and unsustainable. The ideal solution to this issue is to buy a few cloth face coverings that are reusable and keep them in rotation to wear. If you’re looking for a quality, comfortable mask made of cloth, Printed Kicks offers a variety of stylish designs. 

But how exactly do you wash a fabric mask? Most Americans have never had to wash a mask before in their entire lives. And now, we are being asked to do so every day. Fortunately, we’re here to help! We’ve put together an in-depth guide for the community on how to properly wash your face covering, both with a washer and by hand. Check it out below! 

Washing Your Mask

For disposable masks, they should be worn only once, then thrown away right afterward. Similarly, it is recommended to only wear a reusable face mask for one day before washing it. 

Eventually, debris and bacteria will build up on the mask, and wearing it can lead to rashes on the face like acne, as well as infection of other viruses besides COVID-19. Soft materials like cloth are less likely to cause rashes, but if unwashed, they can. 

First, let’s discuss how to wash your mask with a washing machine. It’s pretty straightforward. Simply throw your face covering in with your regular laundry, using the same detergent you typically use. Turn the settings on your washing machine to the warmest water possible—hot water is best. 

When it comes to hand-washing cloth face coverings by hand, run it under a sink with tap water. Use laundry detergent or soapy water to lather the mask until it is completely covered. Then, rinse the mask with water until all of the detergent or soap is removed, and dry it. Avoid setting the mask down after you hand wash it, because the surface might get it dirty.  

Depending on the material, some cloth face coverings are bleach-friendly. Check the label of your masks to see if it is suggested. If so, you can create a bleach solution. Use five tablespoons (⅓ cup) of bleach containing 5.25%-8.25% of sodium hypochlorite per gallon of room temperature water. Alternatively, you can also use four teaspoons of bleach per quart of room temperature water

Then, submerge the mask into the solution for five minutes. Afterward, rinse the mask with cold tap water and dry it. Dump the bleach solution down the drain. Allow the mask to dry entirely before using it.

There are several other mask-cleaning methods being taught online, like putting masks in the microwave, oven, or boiling water. However, there is no scientific backing behind these methods. When in doubt, always follow instructions from licensed health professionals

Drying Your Mask

To dry your mask, you can either use a dryer machine or air dry it. If using a dryer, turn the settings to the highest temperature possible. If you washed your mask with the bleach method, you might need to go through two cycles to dry it completely. 

To air-dry your face covering, hang your mask by its ear loop on a safe structure. Make sure not to let the body of the mask touch any surfaces. For faster drying, you can dry your mask directly in the sunlight. 

There is a growing misconception that direct sunlight by itself is an effective disinfectant for face coverings. In the past, UV light technology has been used for disinfection in facilities like buses and hospitals. However, in this case, it should not be relied on. 

There are three different types of UV lights, UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-A and UV-B rays, which natural sunlight projects heavily, do very little to sanitize surfaces. In fact, they can be harmful to people’s skin and cause cancer. UV-C, which sunlight lacks in, is the one that kills viruses and bacteria. 

Mask Filters

Some people have suggested that inserting filters into your masks provides an extra layer of protection from airborne viruses. Many masks have pouches on the inside you can slip thin fabric into. Medical grade face coverings like N95 masks are usually reserved for health workers, but if you’re looking for some peace of mind, wear a filter behind your mask. 

Just make sure that you are throwing out your filter every time you use it and replacing it with a new one. Most mask filters are disposable anyways. Do not try to wash your filters or reuse them unless they are specifically designed for that. 

Which Masks Are Best to Reuse?

More than ever, the market for face coverings has become oversaturated. Nowadays, it seems like almost every brand offers masks of their own. Needless to say, it can be extremely overwhelming to try and pick the best one for you. 

Today, there are so many different types of masks out there; antimicrobial masks, moisture-wicking masks, hypoallergenic masks, and many more. However, for a majority of people, a standard cloth face covering is more than enough to keep them protected, especially combined with a filter.

Look for face coverings that use double-layered cloth and are machine washable like this American Flag Mask. You want to look for a mask that is thick enough to provide security, but thin enough to be comfortable in. You also want to find a mask that fits your specific face shape nicely. It may require some trial and error, but with these tips, you are sure to find a face covering that fits you. 

Proper Mask Etiquette

Washing your mask isn’t the only step in keeping it clean. The way that you handle and store your mask is equally important. Being aware of proper mask etiquette is crucial during these times. 

For one, try not to let your mask touch any surfaces. When possible, hang your mask by its ear strap, rather than laying it flat down on a surface. If you have to lay it down, lay it down on its outer side, the side that your face is not in contact with. You can also put your mask in a dry, resealable bag. 

If you only wear a mask for a few minutes, then end up taking it off, you can store your mask to reuse later. You should wash your hands after storing it, though, and wash them before you use the mask again. 

When taking off your mask to eat or drink, keep your mask in a secure area such as your pocket or in a bag. Just make sure you sanitize after taking it off, then again before putting it on. 

Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in a scenario where your mask gets wet or dirty. For example, you might be at the gym working out, and the inside of your mask gets damp and sweaty. In this situation, seal your face covering in a plastic bag until you’re able to wash it. This action will eliminate additional bacteria from getting onto the mask and prevent mold from growing. 

If your mask is wet or dirty, wash it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely it will become moldy. And avoid wearing masks when damp. Wet masks are less effective in blocking out bacteria than dry masks. 

Conclusion

There are a number of different methods to clean your face coverings, but these methods are backed by science. If you want to learn more about how the virus functions and how you can further protect yourself, it is worthwhile to conduct your own research. There are a lot of conflicting opinions about how the virus is spread, but you can generally find a consensus between different institutions. 

Wash your masks as often as you can. Be as cautious as possible when handling your mask; it can literally save a life. Every time you wear your mask, wash it. If someone sneezes near you, or you accidentally drop your mask on the ground, wash it. If you ever even have an ounce of doubt about its cleanliness at all, wash it. 

Additionally, never share masks. You never know who has been infected with the virus, and for all you know, a mask that you are borrowing could be contaminated. In the same vein, keep your mask away from other people. Every time we speak, we are propelling particles from our mouths into the air. Your mask can easily become covered in saliva and bacteria without you even knowing.

Stock up on masks when you can also. In this day and age, you can never have too many masks. Luckily, there are a plethora of places online where you can order masks like Printed Kicks. You don’t even need to leave your home to do so. 

 

Sources

Wash your mask daily: the ultimate guide to face coverings | The Guardian  

How to Wash a Cloth Face Covering | CDC 

Can You Disinfect Your Face Mask With Sunlight? No, Says UV Expert | HuffPost Canada Life 


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