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When to Clean and Change Face Masks: Cloth, N95, and Surgical Mask Proper Use Tactics

People maskup

The need to wear a mask has skyrocketed in the last couple of months. A recent survey shows that 72% of American adults are either wearing a face mask when they go out in public or are always wearing one due to their constant exposure to the virus at work.

Ever since the pandemic broke out, people had to take the recommended precautions to fend off COVID-19. These facial coverings have become a necessity, so it is essential to know how to clean them properly.

If you want to know more about cleaning and changing the face masks, you’ve come to the right place. We prepared a simple guideline that will help you figure out how to take proper care of your face mask.

Cloth mask

How Often Do I Clean My Cloth Mask?

Cloth face masks are the go-to choice for many people. They are reusable, convenient, and practical for outdoor and indoor public spaces. Although you can re-use them for a long time, it’s still critical to clean the cloth masks properly.

Experts advise that you clean the cloth face mask after every use, or at least after every day of wear. You can wash the fabric by hand with some detergent or soap and warm water. A standard detergent will do. Or, you can toss it in the washing machine at preferably 60 °C (140°F). Feel free to use a hot dryer setting.

You can also sterilize the mask by soaking it in detergent and room temperature water and then boil it for 1 min. Another alternative would be to soak the fabric in 0.1% chlorine for a minute and rinse the product completely. This will help remove any of the chlorine residues.

Once the cloth mask gets damaged or loose, discard it.

Can I Use a Disinfectant on My Cloth Mask?

Even though you might be tempted to wipe the face mask with a disinfectant, it’s not a good idea. People who are in a pinch and use a disinfectant may end up breathing in dangerous chemicals. So, it is best to set aside the used mask and take another. Washing the mask should be a top priority.

Can I Sterilize and Reuse Disposable Face Masks?

No. These masks are meant for single use. After you’ve applied the product to the face, you should remove it and dispose of it immediately. If it gets too expensive, switch to a cloth mask instead. It is a better money-saving technique. 

Can I Re-Use N95 Respirators?

N95 masks are primarily used by healthcare professionals. Although they too are disposable, the CDC stated that it is safe to extend their use for up to 8h. But, to make sure that the user remains protected from invading pathogens, it’s best to use a face shield and reduce the risk of soiling the N95 mask prematurely.

Since COVID-19 loses its viability after 72h, experts have suggested a re-use and rotation strategy. But only if the mask hasn’t been soiled or contaminated. You can re-use the N95 a maximum of 5 times. After which you will have to change it. 

How Often Do I Clean My N95?

Purchase a set of a minimum of five N95 masks and rotate their use every day. Studies show that these masks can be steam cleaned for 5 min at 125°C (257°F). Anything longer than that can damage the mask.

After cleaning, let them dry completely until the pathogens are no longer viable. That will take over 72h. The ideal drying strategy would be to hang the masks. You can also store them in a breathable and clean paper bag to prevent contamination.

Each mask shouldn’t touch the other while it is drying. It’s critical to avoid sharing the respirator with anyone in the family. Otherwise, you risk contaminating the mask from bodily fluids. If the product has been damaged or contaminated, throw it away.

Final Thoughts

Since face masks too can become contaminated, it is crucial that you take good care of them. Washing the cloth mask can get rid of all those particles and prevent the respiratory illness from infecting your system. But, you shouldn’t wash a surgical mask. The disposable products are designed for single use. At the same time, the N95 respirators can be re-used. Now that you know the adequate cleaning and replacement strategies, you can make the most of your preferred face mask.