What’s The Best Way To Wash Your Reusable Face Mask? Tips For COVID-19

by Kevin Gaertner August 26, 2020

What’s The Best Way To Wash Your Reusable Face Mask? Tips For COVID-19


How do you clean a reusable face mask? While face masks play a major role in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, improperly cleaned and handled masks can actually help spread COVID-19 instead of protecting against it. We’ve gathered all of our research around face mask care and cleaning to teach you how to keep your face masks clean in the age of COVID.

This article covers everything you need to know about face mask care and face mask cleaning. We cover how to wash a cloth face mask with or without a washing machine, how to clean a face mask with a filter, how to handle and store reusable face masks, and how to stay safe while wearing a mask at work.

How do you wash a reusable face mask?

According to the CDC, masks should be washed after every use.

“If you’re using [your mask] and going out to run errands, you run the risk of having droplets collect on the surface of the mask,” said Dr. Cassandra Pierre, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center in The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

If you’re wondering how to clean a cloth face mask, the answer is in your laundry room. For most of us, cleaning a mask is simple:

  1. Remove any filters from your mask before laundering.
  2. Run your face mask through the washer using hot water and regular detergent. The CDC says it’s fine to include masks with your regular laundry.
  3. Dry your face masks using the high heat setting, or the sanitize setting on more modern dryers.
It really is that straightforward! In this Good Housekeeping article, Carolyn Forte, Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, points out that standard washing and drying is more effective than trying to sanitize your masks using boiling water, the oven, or a microwave. Standard laundering also won’t risk melting your elastic straps.

Most mask filters are intended for limited use, so you should plan on replacing them frequently.

 

Face Mask Cleaning Steps

Should you hand wash masks?

In most situations, you should not wash masks by hand. However, that may be the only option if you need to reuse the same mask or don’t have access to a washing machine. In that case, the CDC recommends the following instructions:

  1. Create a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) bleach with a gallon of room-temperature water. For small loads, mix 4 teaspoons bleach with a quart of room-temperature water. (Check the label to make sure your bleach is suitable for disinfecting -- many color-safe bleaches are not.)
  2. Soak your mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
  3. Use cool or room temperature water to rinse your mask thoroughly.
  4. Dry the mask completely before wearing.

If your mask is delicate or features beading, embroidery, or sequins like many wedding masks, you might not want to throw it in the washing machine or use a bleach solution. In that case, Good Housekeeping recommends hand washing your mask with soap and warm or hot water for at least 20 seconds drying them as described above.

That same article points out that delicate masks can also be ironed on the high-heat linen or cotton setting for additional peace of mind.

How do you clean a reusable face mask with a filter?

Always make sure to remove any filters from your mask before washing. Most mask filters are intended for limited use, so you should plan on replacing them frequently, according to the manufacturer’s directions. The PM 2.5 filters and polypropylene moisture barrier inserts we offer at Knotty Tie should be replaced at least once a week, or more frequently for heavy use.

While some mask filters are designed to be washed, The Chicago Tribune warns that every wash decreases a filter’s effectiveness. If you decide to risk laundering your filter anyway, that article recommends hand washing it, then drying it with a hairdryer held 6-8 inches away.

Since homemade filters made from coffee filters, paper towels, or other paper products will disintegrate when washed, they should be discarded after every use.

Face Masks With Filters

How many times can you wash a reusable face mask?

You can wash reusable face masks as often as you need, as long as the mask still fits and functions properly. Like any frequently worn and laundered garment, reusable face masks will eventually show signs of wear and tear.

While washing your masks, take a second to look them over for frays, threadbare patches, or sagging elastic. Frayed or threadbare fabric is less effective at preventing droplet spread, while worn elastic can make your mask fit too loosely. Visibly worn and damaged masks should be replaced.

A mask that is worn and washed daily will wear out faster than a mask that is only worn for occasional errands. Students and essential workers who need to mask up every day may want to rotate between several masks to reduce the wear and tear on each one.

How do you properly take off masks?

Once you’ve worn your mask in public, you should assume it is contaminated with virus particles. John Hopkins Medicine outlines 5 steps to safely removing a face mask:

  1. Start by washing your hands or using hand sanitizer.
  2. Avoid touching the front of your mask or your eyes, nose, or mouth
  3. Carefully remove your mask with the ear loops or ties. If your mask has two ties, unfasten the bottom ones first, then the top.
  4. Throw away your mask filters. Either put the mask directly into the laundry, or put them into a disposable or washable bag to clean later.
  5. Immediately wash your hands again.

How To Wear A Face Mask

How should face masks be correctly stored?

To keep your freshly laundered face mask clean until you need it, avoid bringing your mask into contact with anything that might be carrying virus particles. This includes your hands, your phone, and the inside of your bag or pocket.

Wash or sanitize your hands before taking your clean mask from the dryer. Immediately place the mask inside a fresh zip-top bag or a sanitized reusable container until you are ready to use it. You can use those zip-top bags later to store your used face mask until it can be laundered, as described above.

Do employees need to wear cloth face coverings while working?

Yes, workplaces have become a common source of community spread and employees should be as stringent as possible in their precautions.

During a long shift, essential workers need to ensure their face masks remain dry. According to Nursing Times, masks that are damp with exhaled moisture or other fluids are less efficient at filtering bacteria and more likely to vent infected particles as you breathe. This is one reason that essential workers, in particular, may want to consider using masks with polypropylene moisture barrier inserts.

The CDC recommends waiting to take a mask off until you get home. However, if you’re an essential worker, you will probably need to remove your mask during a coffee or lunch break. In this case, the safest option is to carry one or two clean masks with you.

To change masks, safely remove the old mask as described above, making sure to store it in a clearly marked bag for later laundering. Immediately wash or sanitize your hands. Remember to wash or sanitize your hands again before safely putting your clean mask on.

Face Masks For Employees

Summing it all up.

Washing reusable face masks is surprisingly simple: run them through the hot cycle on your washing machine, using ordinary detergent. But washing your mask isn’t enough. You also have to wash your hands.

Always remember that used face masks can spread infected droplets if improperly stored or handled. At the same time, clean face masks can also pick up infected droplets from your hands, phone, or other contaminated surfaces. As a general rule, you should wash or sanitize your hands before and after handling your mask.

Keep your masks clean by storing them in zip-top bags or similar containers. Similarly, keep used masks in their own bag until you can wash them — and whatever you do, don’t mix up your clean and dirty masks!

Wearing a face mask and keeping it clean is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Every time you wash your hands or peel a face mask off by the ear loops, remember that you are doing it to keep yourself and others safe. Thank you for doing your part.

 

 

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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Sizing

Face Masks 

Adult Standard Adult Small
5" x 9"
Fits most male adults.
4.5" x 8"
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.

 

Neckties

Widths

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


Lengths

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

 
Kids

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