How to Properly Wear and Clean Your Face Mask
An important part of keeping yourself and others protected
Whether you're on a walk, going to the grocery store, or picking up a prescription, wearing a mark is now a standard part of life. While masks may seem like a hassle to wear, they're an important tool in helping slow the spread of the virus and decrease the number of infections (1). Many countries and local governments now require citizens to wear a mask while outside, and the CDC recommends wearing a mask even if it's not required by law. But how do you wear a mask properly and how do you keep a reusable face mask clean? A mask that isn't properly cleaned may pose a health risk to yourself and others. We have some simple tips that will make wearing and washing your mask a little more straightforward!
Why You Should Wear a Mask
Wearing a mask is important when you're in situations where socially distancing isn't possible (2). If you're healthy, a face mask can help protect you from breathing in germs. If you're sick, a face mask can help prevent others from getting sick as well (4). More research is needed on this subject in non-medical settings, but the available evidence suggests they can be a good precautionary practice. , One preprint study found that wearing a mask can be "very slightly protective against primary infection from casual community contact, and modestly protective against household infections when both infected and uninfected members wear facemasks" (3).
If your state or county requires a face mask, please comply with local ordinances. Many retailers and employers are also requiring masks for when employees return to work or when you enter an establishment. If you're going on a walk or an errand, use your best judgement of when you should wear a mask. It's always a good idea to have one when you leave the house just in case you find yourself in a situation where you're around more people than you had planned,
How to Wear a Mask
The most important part of wearing a mask is making sure it fits correctly! All masks should fit snugly around the sides of your face while covering your nose and mouth, but they shouldn't be restrictive or make it hard to breathe. All masks should be secured with ties or with loops that go around your ears (1). If you're using a cloth face mask, you should be able to launder it without changing its size or shape (1).
Here are the best practices for keeping your mask clean and keeping yourself safe:
- Although it's tempting to rewear a disposable mask, they were designed to only be used once. If you sanitize or wash a disposable mask, you're most likely damaging it so it won't be as effective.
- Cloth masks can be reworn, but they have to be washed with laundry soap or detergent after every use. Yes, this includes after your 5 minute walk to the post office or any situation in which you were around others! Make sure to wash your mask in warm water and dry on high heat- warm water and high heat laundry settings have been shown to deactivate the coronavirus. Detergent by itself can also deactivate and wash away the virus.
- If you're using a filter insert with your mask, make sure to replace it every time you use your mask. Like disposable masks, filter inserts were meant to be single-use.
- Wash your hands after touching your mask. This will stop you from potentially getting sick or spreading the virus around. Don't forget to wash with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds! The more time you take to wash your hands, the more effective it will be.
- If you aren't able to wash your mask, you can leave your mask to air out for at least a week. You'll have to wear a different mask in the meantime, but leaving your mask alone for a week will dramatically decrease the amount of coronavirus germs on it (although there are other germs that may persist longer!) Therefore, we recommend washing your mask with detergent and water, even if it's by hand.