By Daniel Farber Huang
July 6, 2020
Actually, in the fine print, the Center for Disease Control recommends you wash your cloth face mask “after each use.”
By a show of hands, who has washed their mask today? This week? This month? Ever?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
As COVID-19 continues to create massive uncertainty and confusion around both the U.S. and the rest of the world, wearing a face mask is likely to be a requirement in many places in the coming several months, possibly years. In addition to businesses requiring face masks on their premises, numerous states have made face masks a mandatory requirement in public.
According to the CDC, cloth face coverings are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control.
COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of cloth face coverings is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where
The Mayo Clinic also recommends that cloth face coverings be washed after every day of use.
To properly clean your face mask, the CDC recommends removing face coverings correctly (more details on this are provided at the end of this article) and washing your hands after handling or touching a used face covering.
Washing in a washing machine.
You can include your face covering with your regular laundry. Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the face covering.
Washing by hand
Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
— 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) household bleach per gallon of room temperature water or
— 4 teaspoons household bleach per quart of room temperature water
Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection. Some bleach products, such as those designed for safe use on colored clothing, may not be suitable for disinfection. Ensure the bleach product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
Soak the face covering in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
Rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.
[Note: There is some online messaging warning that “splash-less” bleach does not disinfect against COVID-19. According to a June 18, 2020 report by news channel WUSA9, before a product can use the word “disinfectant” on its label, the product has to be tested by the Environmental Protection Agency and approved by state regulators. Clorox Company, for example, initially introduced its Regular Clorox Splash-Less bleach as a laundry product and had not gone through the EPA-approval process. Given COVID-19, Clorox pushed for the product to be reviewed, got it approved and will be labeling it as a disinfectant in future packaging. When buying different bleach products, check the product labels for approved uses.]
The CDC says to make sure to completely dry cloth face covering after washing. A wet cloth face covering may make it difficult to breathe.
In a Dryer
Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry.
Illustration clothes in dryer
Lay flat and allow to completely dry. If possible, place the cloth face covering in direct sunlight.
Clearly, following CDC recommendations takes time to both wash and dry a mask so if at all possible individuals should have multiple masks in their COVID-19 arsenal of safety measures.
The CDC recommends all people 2 years of age and older wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
The CDC recommends the following procedure to properly take off your face covering:
— Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing.
— Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops
— Handle only by the ear loops or ties
— Fold outside corners together and wash the mask according to the recommendations above.
The Mayo Clinic advises masks should not be placed in pockets for later use. To store or transport, carefully fold the mask so the contaminated outside is folded inward and against itself, and place it in a clean or new paper bag.
According to the CDC, cloth face coverings are a critical preventive measure and are most essential in times when social distancing is difficult. If cloth face coverings cannot be used, make sure to take other measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.