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This Is What You Need To Know About Cleaning Your Face Mask

caring for face masks

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!

caring for face masks

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. 

caring for face masks

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.

caring for face masks

To remove your face mask safely, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends following these simple steps:

  1. Wash your hands, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. Clean your hands again, and you’re done!
caring for face masks

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!)

caring for face masks

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. 

caring for face masks

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.

caring for face masks

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!

caring for face masks

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.

caring for face masks

How Often Should I Clean My Face Mask?

You should clean your face mask after each use to prevent the spread of germs.

caring for face masks

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!)

caring for face masks

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  • I actually have to wash them out in the machine. I actually last year had an infection on my skin. I was hand washing them. The doctor said to machine wash them. I use a lingerie type bag . I let them air dry.

  • Hi, if you do use the disposable mask…please cut the strings on the masks. When we throw them away, they are getting in our waterways eg: lakes, rivers, and oceans. Which in turn is affecting our sea life. The sea life is getting caught in the strings and then they are unable to get out of them. Thank you.

  • There is so much disinformation in this comment section, I hope Jillee edits it.
    First of all, wearing masks is not about compliance. Wearing masks is about protecting other people from your germs. How can folks not understand this simple concept?
    If you really don’t believe this, then you won’t mind if the surgical team goes maskless the next time you need to be sewn up?
    Anyone who is walking around without visible symptoms can still be a contagious carrier of this virus. That includes you. So please stop being so selfish. Protect others from your germs by wearing the right kind of mask, and by washing it properly between wearings.

  • I am not going out much these days. I just wash my cloth mask in the bathroom sink when I get home and hang it on a laundry hook to air dry. Takes no time.

    • Even the experts are saying “soap and water” are the best way to combat the virus. I’m disabled and don’t have a lot of money to spend on masks. I’ve washed my masks in my bathroom sink several times.

  • I use disposable masks for an obvious reason: cloth masks don’t work if your goal is to keep virus from your respiratory system. People don’t seem to realize that touching the outside of a cloth mask contaminates your hands; I can’t tell you how many people I see touching the mask while it’s on, or have it hanging from a knob in their car. EVERY time you use it, you have to wash it. You also have to decontaminate anywhere it’s touched, including in your car. If you aren’t doing this, you’re spreading germs.

  • I’ve actually tried machine washing mine . It made it shrink. What I do since I wear mine for work is I can spot clean it with a bat of soap. I also have washed it out by hand using an antibacterial hand soap pump. It helps so mine doesn’t shrink. Machine washing mine made it too tight.

    • I didn’t see the part earlier about soaking the masks in bleach. I probably won’t do it because most of mine are colored and it would ruin them. When I washed the mask before in the machine it was on a cold water cycle and it still made it too tight when it dried.! I just let mine air dry.

      • If you soak them in straight bleach your masks will eventually disintegrate. The general consensus is to use 5 tablespoons of bleach PER GALLON of water. Washing them by hand with regular soap is just fine and hanging them to dry naturally will actually help them last longer. Agitation (like in a washing machine) plus heat WILL shrink cotton and other natural fabrics. Remember, the lint filter in your dryer is filled with bits of your clothing, also – line drying helps your clothes last longer, so it would work the same way with your masks.

    • between washings, I spray my masks with rubbing alcohol ( at least 70%) after every use and hang to dry. It’s efficient and easy as well as sanitary.

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