Wearing a mask helps stop the spread of COVID-19, and public health authorities recommend wearing one when you’re in public and you’re unable to stay 6 feet away from others. There are a few things you should keep in mind when selecting, wearing and cleaning your masks. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
When choosing a mask, the CDC recommends selecting a mask that:
- Has two or more layers of washable fabric
- Completely covers your mouth and nose
- Fits snugly against the sides of your face
Don’t select a mask made of a material that makes it hard to breathe, like vinyl, has an exhalation valve or is specifically designed for healthcare workers — like an N95 or surgical mask.
When it’s time to take off your mask, the CDC recommends:
- Only handling your mask by its loops or ties
- Folding the mask by the corners
- And not touching your face when removing the mask and washing your hands or using sanitizer as soon as you’re able
Washing Your Mask
You know how important it is to wash your hands, but do you know it’s equally important to also wash your mask? If you’re like most people, you might find that you leave your mask inside your car when you’re finished with errands, but like your hands, they should be washed regularly.
Here are a few ways you can properly clean your mask:
Add it to the laundry: You can include your masks with your load of laundry, just be sure to wash it on the warmest appropriate setting for the cloth the mask is made from.
Wash by hand: You can also wash your masks by hand and either put them in the dryer or air dry them.
A note about bleach: If you choose to wash your mask by hand, you may want to use bleach. If the fabric can be disinfected with bleach, use bleach containing 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use a bleach product if the percentage is not in this range or is not specified.
Ensure you have adequate ventilation and mix 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) of 5.25%–8.25% bleach per gallon of room temperature water or 4 teaspoons of 5.25%–8.25% bleach per quart of room temperature water. Soak the mask in the bleach solution for five minutes, then thoroughly rinse with water and dry.
What About Face Shields?
According to the CDC, face shields are primarily used for eye protection. It is unknown what kind of protection if any, face shields provide against respiratory droplets. Because of this, the CDC does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks. If you do use a reusable face shield, it should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.