While it took a few weeks for me to get used to it, I now have no problem wearing my face mask when I go out—in fact, I hardly notice it anymore! I now have several masks in rotation and have even gotten in the habit of coordinating them with my outfit. (I’m calling it “pandemic chic.”) ;-)
Having several masks in rotation doesn’t just allow me to be stylish, it also ensures I always have a clean mask available. Because wearing the same mask repeatedly will not only spread germs around, but it will also trap oil, dirt, and breakout-causing bacteria against your skin. Yuck!
If you’ve found yourself wondering recently about how often to clean your face masks and how to do it, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve gathered all of the latest guidelines about face mask care and cleaning from both the CDC and Johns Hopkins Medicine and consolidated them here in one easy-to-follow guide!
Removing Your Face Mask
Before you can clean your face mask, you have to take it off first! And there are a few guidelines you should follow when removing your mask to help prevent the spread of germs.
According to the public health experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine, you should ideally put on your mask before you leave the house, and then only remove it once you’re done with work or errands for the day. If you’re driving, you can remove your mask once you get in the car to drive home. Otherwise, keep it on until you get home.
To remove your face mask safely, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends following these simple steps:
- Wash your hands, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops, and take care to avoid touching the front of the mask or your face while doing so.(If your mask has ties instead of ear loops, untie the bottom ones first and then the top ones.)
- Remove any disposable filters, then fold the mask and store it in a paper or plastic bag until you’re able to wash it. If you’re at home, you can put the mask directly into your washing machine or zip it into a mesh laundry bag.
- Clean your hands again, and you’re done!
I’ve seen some friends on Facebook sharing their “mask stations” they’ve set up by their front door with separate containers for clean and dirty masks. I think that’s a great way to go (as long as they are clearly labeled, of course!)
How To Clean Your Face Mask
The easiest way to clean your face mask is to wash it in your washing machine. You can toss it in with the rest of your laundry and use your normal detergent, but be sure to use hot water in your wash cycle.
To clean your mask by hand, using a bleach solution is the best way to go. The bleach you use should be suitable for disinfection (keeping in mind that some bleach products, like those designed for colored clothing, may not be suitable for disinfection.) It should also contain 5.25–8.25% sodium hypochlorite and not be expired.
In a well ventilated area, prepare a bleach solution of 5 tablespoons (or ⅓ cup) of bleach per gallon of room temperature water. Soak your mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes, then discard the solution and rinse your mask thoroughly with clean water.
To dry your mask, use the highest heat setting on your dryer. If you don’t have a dryer, set your mask out to dry in direct sunlight. Always make sure your masks are completely dry before wearing them again!
Bonus Tip: For added peace of mind, you can iron your masks with your clothes iron on the cotton or linen setting to kill any remaining germs.
How Often Should I Clean My Face Mask?
You should clean your face mask after each use to prevent the spread of germs.
Disposable masks (like blue surgical masks, for example) cannot be cleaned and should be thrown away when they’re visibly soiled or damaged. (This makes them a less sustainable option, and it’s definitely something worth considering when choosing face masks for you and your family!)