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How to Wash your Face Mask

Posted by Rachel Schwartz on 6/3/2020

Although most US states and several countries are beginning to reopen at this point, wearing a face mask while in the public is still strongly recommended and, for many businesses, a requirement in order to enter their store. Because of this, face masks have become a hot commodity over the last few months. Hundreds of tutorials can be found online on how to make your own, some clothing brands are beginning to design and sell their own in various colors and patterns, and other places--including JES--have added face masks to their inventory offering. But what do you do once it's been worn? How many times can you wear a face mask before it should be washed? How should it be washed? Can you throw it in the dryer, or does it need to air dry?

Firstly, while it can be difficult to avoid touching your face, it's a good idea to avoid touching your mask as much as possible once it is in place to prevent as much cross-contamination as possible. If your mask is on properly, it should cover your nose, mouth, and chin, with the bottom of the mask resting underneath your chin. Essentially, the lower half of your face from the bridge of the nose down should be covered when your mask is on. When taking your mask off, try to remove it while touching it as little as possible. If your mask has loops that go over the ears, remove the mask by those loops and avoid touching the mask or your face until you have washed your hands and the mask. If your mask has loops that go around the back of your head, carefully remove the mask, touching as little as possible and immediately wash your hands and the mask. 

All masks, regardless of their materials, should be washed after each use. If you wear it to the grocery store, wash it when you get home. If you wear it while you are at work during the day, wash it when you get home at the end of the day. Because your mask needs to be washed or sanitized after every use, it's best if you have at last two or three masks to rotate between so that there is always at least one available while another is drying. 

As for the proper steps to sanitize your mask, it depends on what material your mask is made of--paper or fabric. Technically, paper masks are designed for one use only. However, if a handful of paper masks are all you have, then leave you paper mask outside in the garage or in an isolated place (like a paper or plastic bag) for 3-5 days to kill any germs that might be on the mask before wearing it again. 

If your mask is made of fabric material, it can easily be tossed in with the laundry if you have a load to wash anyway. Just be sure that the washing machine is set to wash using warm water. Unless your mask has elastic loops, feel free to toss your mask into the dryer with the rest of your laundry after it's been washed. If your mask does have elastic loops, it's best to let it air fry after washing. If you don't have any laundry to do, you can handwash your fabric mask in warm or hot water using regular soap or hand-wash detergent. Make sure to scrub the mask vigorously to create a lather and make sure to wash every part of the mask. If you have enough time, you can even let the mask soak in hot, soapy water for up to 30 minutes before rinsing and air drying. If air drying, let the mask fully dry before using it again. Depending on the fabric used, this can take anywhere from 1-2 days. 

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