How To Clean Your Cloth Face Mask

by Kevin Gaertner May 05, 2020

Fabric Face Mask

Caring for and cleaning cloth face masks is new to millions of people right now. Just like the guidelines around wearing the masks themselves, there are countless pieces of advice on how to clean a face mask. We’ve collected information from trusted resources to answer your top questions on face mask care.

Cleaning a face mask isn’t hard, but there are a few guidelines you need to remember. While reusable fabric face masks are a vital tool in fighting COVID-19, they must be properly handled to prevent them from spreading the germs you are trying to protect against. Learning how to clean a cloth face mask can help to keep yourself and others safe during this global pandemic.

Keep in mind that face masks should always be cleaned first before use.

You can also extend the lifespan of your mask by caring for it appropriately. With proper care and cleaning, your reusable cloth mask can last for quite a while. 

Spread Love Not Germs Face Mask

How do you clean your masks?

Let’s break it down.

  1. The best way to wash cloth face masks is with hot water and regular detergent. Using soap for disinfection is important due to the nature of the virus.
  2. After running your mask through the washing machine, use the high heat setting on your dryer, or the sanitize dry setting on more modern drying machines. Using high temperatures will help to kill any germs or bacteria on your face mask.
  3. Remember to remove out any filters before washing and drying.

Do not try to sanitize your mask in the microwave. You will melt the elastic and risk starting a fire! Washing your face mask with hot water and detergent, and drying it on high heat is sufficient to sanitize it.

Face Mask Cleaning Steps

How often should you clean your face mask?

We recommend clearing your mask after every use, in line with the CDC’s guidance. Our masks are intended for limited duration usage when disposable alternatives are not available. For some, this may mean using a mask once for a trip to the store, while for others, it may mean wearing a mask for longer periods at work. Either way, you should follow certain precautions to prevent your mask from becoming a source of contagion rather than a protection against it.

Always assume that your cloth face mask is contaminated once you’ve worn it in public. Don’t take your mask off and then put it back on again without washing it. If you need to remove your mask for any reason, you should replace it with a clean mask afterward. This helps to prevent virus particles on your mask from transferring to your hands or face.

Similarly, try to avoid adjusting your mask during wear. If you do need to adjust your mask, only touch the elastic or the straps, not the front of the mask itself. Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately after touching your face mask.

Freshly laundered face masks should also be handled with care in order to keep them clean. What’s the point of properly washing and drying your face mask, only to fold it with dirty hands?

  1. Always wash your hands before handling a clean face mask.
  2. Don’t set a clean face mask down on an unsanitized countertop or table.
  3. Definitely don’t shove one into a bag or pocket where it might encounter dirty hands or an unsanitized phone!
  4. While carrying backup face masks is a good idea, you should protect them inside a fresh zip-top bag or a sanitized reusable container. This protects your mask from other items you may be carrying with you. A plastic bag also gives you a handy way to store your used face mask until it can be laundered.

Can you clean the filters?

No, the filters need to be removed from the masks. If you wear a mask with a filter pocket or sleeve, make sure to remove all filters before washing. Replace your filter as needed, according to the manufacturing guidelines. The PM 2.5 filters and polypropylene moisture barrier inserts we offer at Knotty Tie should be replaced at least once a week, but vary based on use. 

How many face masks do you need?

Because of how new face masks are to so many of us, it’s helpful to use a light-hearted everyday analogy for their care that everyone can understand -- underwear. They need to be washed after every use, and more often once they’re not clean. This guideline is an easy way to help you determine how to treat masks in general, as well as how many face masks you need.

You may be able to get by with two face masks if you only leave your house for the occasional quick errand. It’s important to have a backup mask in case the one you are wearing grows damp from your breath or a sneeze. For this reason, some people prefer to have at least three face masks in case their primary or backup mask is in the laundry.

Essential workers who wear face masks to work should have at least five masks. At Knotty Tie, you’ll automatically get a 10% off code when five masks are added to your cart, and 15% off for ordering 10+.

Suggested Number of Face Masks

Wearing your mask for a longer period increases the likelihood that it may become damp or soiled. Also, remember that you should never take off a face mask and put it back on without washing it. If you remove your mask during lunch or your coffee break, it’s safest to change into a clean mask afterward. Used face masks should be kept in a plastic bag until you can wash them.

Since face masks need washing after each wearing, your laundry habits also help determine how many face masks you will need. If your laundry tends to pile up, you may want to keep a few day’s worths of masks on hand. On the other hand, if you are able to wash your masks immediately after each trip away from the house, you can probably get by with fewer of them.

Just like underwear, face masks will eventually wear out with frequent laundering. If you only have two face masks and wash them both every day, they will show signs of wear and tear faster than masks from a larger collection where each mask is washed less frequently. Replace any face mask that develops holes or threadbare patches from the wash.

How often should you clean your face mask?

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face masks anytime you go out in public where your ability to maintain physical distance from others may be challenging. Places like banks, convenience stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies have all taken measures to make social distancing easy on shoppers. Even with these precautions, however, going out in public still poses risks to yourself and others. While cloth face masks don’t entirely eliminate that risk, they can help limit the spread of disease when properly used alongside best practices like hand washing and social distancing.

Wearing face masks is especially important in areas with high transmission rates, or when urban density makes it challenging to keep your distance when running errands. Plan to wear a mask anytime you go into a store or interact with others outside the house. If you live in a city, you should also wear a face mask anytime you go out in public.

There are some situations where masks aren’t appropriate, however. Don’t wear masks when exercising, as they can restrict your airflow. For the same reason, children under the age of two should not wear face masks. Similarly, don’t put masks on individuals who can’t remove them without assistance.

To ensure your mask works as well as possible, be sure to stop using it once it becomes damp or has been sneezed into.

It’s important to also follow social distancing and to frequently wash your hands even when wearing a face mask. Remember, face masks can help to slow the spread of COVID-19, but only when used alongside those other precautions. Face mask cleaning and sanitization is an essential step to these precautions.

How do you put a face mask on and take it off correctly?

Always wash your hands before touching a clean face mask. Put on and remove your mask by touching the elastic or ties, not the front of the mask. The CDC advises that cloth masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against the side of your face. Make sure the face mask covers both your mouth and nose.

As you remove your face mask, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Any face mask you’ve worn in public should be treated as if it were contaminated. Only handle your mask by the elastic or straps, and remember to always wash your hands immediately after removing a cloth face mask.

How To Wear A Face Mask

Face mask care in summary.

While these guidelines may feel overwhelming at first, caring for your reusable face masks clean will quickly become second nature.

After every use, wash your face mask with hot water and detergent, and dry it on high or sanitize. Keep clean face masks from coming into contact with dirty hands or surfaces. Used face masks should be treated as if they were contaminated with the virus, just in case. Handle your face mask by the elastic or straps, not the front, and always wash your hands after adjusting or removing your mask.

Cloth face masks play an important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but only if they’re handled and cleaned properly. Otherwise, they can help to spread the virus you are trying to protect against.



Still have questions?

Read The 411 on Face Masks, or contact our sales and support team to help. Contact us here

Kevin Gaertner
Kevin Gaertner


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Face Masks 

Adult Standard Adult Small
5" x 8"
Fits most male adults.
4.5" x 7"
Fits most women and young adults.


Neck Gaiters 

Regular Small
9.5” x 14”
Fits most men and those with larger heads.
8.5" x 14"
Fits most women and kids.




Skinny Knotty Classic
2.25" wide 2.75" wide 3.5" wide


Standard Long Extra-Long
58" long 62" long 66" long


Youth Self-Tied
52" long
Ages 10+


Bow Ties 

Adult Kids Pre-Tied Baby Pre-Tied
Self-tied style
Adjustable for necks 14-18"
Ages 2 and over
Adjustable velcro closure
Ages 2 and under
Adjustable velcro closure