As kids continue through the fall semester, face masks are still being used around the world to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In many countries, masks have been mandatory in all public spaces, indoors and outdoors. And as of October 2020, 33 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have mask orders in place.
With so much mask-wearing, you might’ve stocked up on a lot of reusable face masks to rotate throughout the week. But are you washing them safely and properly?
How often should you wash cloth face masks?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that masks be washed regularly. You may want to wash them after every use.
Masks can be washed with your regular laundry. If you’re not washing them by hand one at a time after every use, you can store dirty masks in the washing machine until you’re ready to do laundry.
To take off a used face mask at home safely, follow these steps:
- Wash your hands properly first. Avoid touching the front of the mask or your face.
- Remove your mask carefully by holding on to the ear loops, or by loosening or untying the ties.
- Take out any disposable filters if your mask has them.
- Fold the mask by its corners and put it into your washing machine, or into a washable laundry bag.
- Wash your hands again.
Ready to wash your masks? Read on.
What water temperature is best for cloth masks?
Since you can wash your mask with your regular laundry loads, you can follow your usual steps for washing laundry. You should use the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask.
Here’s a quick and handy guide for water temperature and fabrics.
- Hot water: Use for whites and heavily soiled clothes that have been pre-treated for stains, like cloth diapers.
- Warm water: Use for knits and synthetic fibers
- Cold water: Use for dark or bright colors or delicate fabrics
Check the store or maker of your cloth face masks for wash instructions. Warm water is generally safe for cotton or linen masks. If your mask is made from breathable or moisture-wicking fabric, use cold water and natural laundry detergent.
What about hand-washing masks?
You can wash your masks by hand if you prefer. This can extend the life of masks, especially if they were handmade. Mix natural laundry detergent with the hottest water you can, and scrub your mask for at least 20 seconds. Dry them in your dryer or allow them to air dry fully.
You can also wash and disinfect your masks using a household bleach solution, whether oxygen bleach or chlorine bleach. The CDC recommends using a bleach containing 5.25% to 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use a bleach product out of that range or without a range on its label.
It should be noted that bleach is especially toxic and should not be mixed with anything other than water. Some of the most deadly combinations are ammonia and bleach, vinegar and bleach, and rubbing alcohol and bleach.
To wash and disinfect your cloth face masks by hand, follow these steps:
- Protect your skin with gloves when handling bleach. Make sure the room is well-ventilated.
- Mix 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) of bleach per gallon of room water temperature. Or, mix 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of room temperature water.
- Soak masks in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
- Remove the masks and rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.
- Discard the bleach solution down the drain.
- Completely dry masks after washing and before wearing.
How should you dry cloth face masks?
Now that your cloth face masks are washed, how do you dry them safely? You have two options.
Dry your masks using the highest heat setting on your dryer. Leave them in there until completely dry. If you’re drying a mixed load of fabrics, you can remove certain garments and items early to prevent shrinking.
Or, you can air dry your masks by laying them flat. Allow them to completely dry before using them. If you can, place the mask in direct natural sunlight. Researchers are still studying how long coronavirus can last under the sun’s rays, but direct natural sunlight may be an effective disinfectant.
Keep your face masks clean with Charlie’s Soap
If you’re sensitive to fragrances, dyes, or fabric softeners in laundry detergent, make sure you choose Charlie’s Soap for washing your face masks! Charlie’s Soap Natural Laundry Detergent is hypoallergenic and eco-friendly. It gets your cloth face masks clean without irritating your skin, and it’s safe for the planet, too. Our detergent comes in Laundry Liquid or Laundry Powder for your convenience. Get yours today!