• Lydia Ng

How To Properly Clean Your Reusable Mask

According to an MD

John Bates, 1966

Here’s the thing, I choose disposable, surgical masks over reusable ones for two reasons: 1) I can’t be sure of the efficacy of cloth masks and 2) I don’t have time to wash them after every use.

I checked in with an MD friend, Dr Lucy Beh who clarified that whilst the filtration effectiveness of some cloth masks may be lower than that of medical masks, they can still provide protection if well-designed and used correctly.

She stresses that you absolutely must wash a reusable mask every day, though it's not necessary to do so after every use. "But change your mask immediately if it gets wet," she adds.

Masks prevent saliva and other droplets expelled from breathing, talking, coughing and sneezing from getting into the air and potentially spreading Covid-19 (or other illnesses.) This also means that they form a sealed area for moisture and bacteria. If you don’t wash your mask, bacteria will continue to fester on it which may negatively impact its efficacy. It's also in contact with your skin – maskne, anyone?

Keep in mind that some masks can only be washed and reused 30 times. "Best to check manufacturer instructions."

How to properly wash your mask

Dr Beh says she washes her reusable masks by hand and air dries them, and recommends following CDC guidelines:

Washing machine

  • It's fine to include masks with regular laundry

  • Use regular laundry detergent and the dryer at its hottest heat setting to kill any potentially remaining particles, or dry in direct sunlight.

By hand

  • Use a bleach and water solution: Mix five tablespoons of household bleach per gallon (3.8L) of room temperature water. Check that the bleach is intended for disinfection, it should contain 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite.

  • Soak face mask in the solution for at least five minutes. We suggest using gloves whilst doing this.

  • Rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature water. Toss in dryer on the highest heat setting or lay out to dry in direct sunlight.

Whichever method you choose to use, make sure your mask is completely dried before you use it again, as a damp cloth is a welcoming environment for bacteria to grow.

A final note (four, actually)

  1. Don't spray your face mask with disinfectants. Inhaling chemical cleaning solutions can cause more harm than good, and in the case of surgical masks, may break down the structure of the filter and make them dangerous to use.

  2. Don't reuse disposable, surgical masks. Replace once the inner lining gets moist.

  3. Store your mask in a cool, dry place, not stuffed at the bottom of your bag. At home, consider hanging it by its tie strings on a hook. If you’re removing your mask whilst having a meal outside, put it away in an envelope or mask holder.

  4. Wear your mask – reusable or disposable – correctly. Pinch the stiff edge of the mask over your nose bridge, and make sure it completely covers your nose, mouth and chin.