In a time where facemasks are a necessity to the point that you can’t leave home without them (please don’t leave your homes without a facemask on), it’s difficult to obtain disposable ones. Most of us are relying on reusable cloth masks, as they are inexpensive and easier to find. But do we need to wash them after every use? The answer is yes, as Vox details:
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“It’s definitely recommended to wash that mask every day,” said Dr. Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. Kullar points out that the purpose of the mask is to prevent the virus from spreading, so if there are virus particles on yours, wearing an unwashed mask is counterproductive.
The CDC also recommends washing masks: “Masks should be washed after each use. It is important to always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask,” the website says. According to the CDC, taking off your mask correctly means handling it only by the ear loops or ties, folding it to be placed in the washing machine, and washing your hands immediately after.
Cloth masks can be washed by hand or in a washing machine. Surgical masks, another popular option, cannot be washed and should be discarded after one use. There is very little “peer-reviewed” information about how to wash an N95 mask. Some potential options include vaporized hydrogen peroxide, using dry heat, or UV light — methods that aren’t really suitable for experimentation at home.
For cloth masks, if you’re using a washing machine, the CDC recommends regular detergent and “the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask.” If you’re washing your mask by hand, you should prepare a bleach solution and soak your mask in it for five minutes, then rinse in cool or room-temperature water. Mask filters should be washed by hand.
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