How to Wash a Face Mask

A little over a year ago, COVID-19 broke out and changed millions of lives in many different ways. Since then, many different procedures, innovations, and products have emerged in response. Some of the most notable measures implemented across the globe: social distancing, hand washing, and wearing face masks.

Cleanliness is key when it comes to effectiveness, especially when it comes to disposable masks or reusable cloth face masks. HomElectrical is here to share some valuable information about washing face masks to help keep you safe. Whatever mask you wear, take care of your mask, and your mask will take care of you.

Each type of mask requires specific care due to factors such as their material or construction. Some mask materials and construction can withstand a washer and dryer, but others cannot. Elastic or strings may rip or tear due to a washer’s agitator, or by surrounding clothes.

Is your mask machine washable?

Open washing machine with towel hanging out

Before tossing your mask in the washing machine, look at the packaging or instruction tags. I know what you’re thinking: “Follow directions to take care of a mask?”

Yes, just like your favorite shirt or hoodie, you don’t want to ruin your mask. Masks protect you and others so take care of it like your favorite outfit.

Wash the mask with clothes that require a similar water temperature and cycle/setting.

Using a dryer with face masks

Even if machine-washable, that does not mean your mask will survive the dryer as well. Double-check the directions!

Typically, masks with elastic components or more delicate strings may require air drying since a dryer may shrink the elastic ear loops or tear strings.

Following the mask instructions, place the mask and run the dryer at the correct settings until completely dry.

What if your mask can’t hold up in the washer or dryer? What now?

Hand washing a face mask

To hand wash a face mask, using a sink or container, rinse your mask with water. Use laundry detergent or liquid soap to suds up the mask. Work in the soap for 20 seconds, just like washing your hands.

Rinse thoroughly until the soap disappears down the drain with bacteria and/or viruses, and the water no longer makes soap suds.

Air drying a face mask

Hands hanging reusable cloth face masks outside to air dry

Masks typically dry faster than normal laundry due to their smaller size, so air drying proves a smart option, since it will increase the life of your mask from unnecessary wear and tear from the heat of a dryer.

Hang your freshly cleaned mask in direct sunlight or lay it flat. Wait until the mask completely dries. A wet mask reduces effectiveness and makes it difficult to breathe.

Besides washing and drying, let’s take a look at other considerations when it comes to face masks.

Can I wash and reuse a disposable mask?

No. Throw out a disposable mask after a single use.

How often should I wash my face mask?

That depends on how frequently you wear the mask and how long you wear the mask.

John Hopkins Medicine recommends washing the mask after each use.

Do I need to bleach or disinfect my face mask?

The CDC does not provide instruction regarding bleach and face masks.

Directly bleaching the mask can contaminate the mask and result in the inhalation of toxic fumes.

The CDC recommends a bleach solution by mixing 4 teaspoons of bleach (5-8%) per quart of room temperature water.

We’ll make it through COVD-19 sooner or later, but until it’s a distant memory, remember to wear and wash your mask.

Mark Watola
Mark Watola

Mark graduated with a B.S in Communications from Kennesaw State University in 2020. Enlisted in the United States Marine Corps from 2012 to 2016, Mark operated as a Photojournalist and Correspondent at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Public Affairs Office. Learning from his time in the military, Mark prides himself on having an adaptable and mission-based mindset with a willingness to work cooperatively to craft quality content.

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