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How to wash a reusable face mask

Woman wearing face mask at bus stop
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Washing a face mask

If you have a reusable face mask or covering, then you should be cleaning it with every use. Here’s some advice from Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to wash a reusable face mask.

Using a washing machine

You can include your face masks and coverings in with the rest of your washing, using regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask. If you purchased the covering, check for any instructions on the packaging. For example these adults single reusable face coverings can be washed at temperatures up to 60°C.

Hand washing

You can also wash your face covering by hand if you choose to.

To do so:

  1. Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection, some products such as those for safe use on coloured clothing, may not be suitable. Make sure it’s not past its expiration date and never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
  2. Make up a solution of bleach by mixing 5 tablespoons of household bleach with a gallon (3.8 litres) of room temperature water.
  3. Soak the mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.

Drying your mask

Using a tumble dryer

Use the highest heat setting and leave in your dryer until completely dry. Make sure you check the specification on your face coverings to ensure they can be tumble dried, these reusable fabric face coverings aren’t suitable to be tumble dried.

Air drying

Lay your mask flat and allow to completely dry. If possible, place the mask in direct sunlight.

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Do I need to clean a disposable mask?

If you’re using a disposal face mask, this can’t be cleaned and should be removed and disposed of carefully. Remember to wash your hands after removing the mask and before you apply a new one.

How long can you wear a disposable mask for?

A disposable mask or face covering is designed to be worn once. You can wear a face mask until they become wet or dirty this could be because of your breath or the weather. When they’re wet or dirty, face masks become less effective and harder to breathe through. So, you should dispose of your mask and wear a new one.

Can you clean a face mask filter?

If your reusable mask has a filter, remove the filter from the mask and dispose of it before washing the mask as you would in the steps above.

How long do reusable face coverings last until disposal?

You should follow the washing instructions of the fabric your reusable face mask is made from. This will help it to last longer, however you should throw away your reusable face mask if any holes appear.

How long do reusable face coverings last?

This will depend on the covering. Make sure to check the specifications for your coverings. For example, the Kisetsu water repellent reusable face coverings and reusable fabric face coverings are suitable to be washed up to 20 times. 

How many face coverings do I need?

Two face coverings is a good place to start so you can have one clean and one in the wash, but you need enough face coverings to have be able to wash them between uses.

Also, the World Health Organization says you should not share your mask with others, so make sure you have enough face masks or coverings for your whole family.

What should I do with my mask when I take it off?

When you have taken off your mask, for example when you’re finished shopping or in your car, remember to bring it inside with you to be cleaned when your home. It might be easier to wait until you have returned home to take off your mask and put it directly in the laundry.

Which is the best reusable face mask?

The best face mask for you will depend on your needs. If you don’t want to have to worry about washing your face mask, you might want to consider a disposal face mask as they are single use and should be thrown away after one use. Reusable face masks have benefits such as potential cost savings and can be worn multiple times, as long as you wash them between uses.

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Can I make my own face mask?

If you’re handy with a needle and thread you can make your own face covering using cotton fabric and elastic, string or cloth strips. It should be able to cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.

For a guide on how to make your own cloth face covering, click here.

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