Wearing a mask is a way to help slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Whether or not masking is mandatory in your area, when combined with everyday precautions such as handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and social distancing, masks can help protect you and those around you from airborne disease particles.
Once you’ve selected the right kind of mask and worn and removed it properly, it’s important to remember to regularly clean your fabric mask. Remember, the CDC advises avoiding masks that are intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators or surgical masks, so these instructions apply solely to reusable cloth face masks such as those sewn by hand or available in stores.
Washing Your Mask
To wash your cloth mask in a traditional or high-efficiency washing machine, simply toss it in with your other laundry. The CDC advises using your regular laundry detergent and washing on the warmest water setting that is appropriate for the fabric used to make your cloth mask.
If using a washing machine is not possible or preferred, you can wash your cloth mask by hand. To ensure your mask is both cleaned and disinfected, you’ll want to use a bleach solution when washing by hand.
First, check the label on your bleach to ensure it is intended for disinfection. You’ll want to use a bleach that contains 5.25%-8.25% sodium hypochlorite. If your bleach product falls outside of this range, does not specify, or is past the expiration date, do not use it. It is also important to remember never to mix household bleach with ammonia or another cleanser, and to ensure you have adequate ventilation.
The CDC recommends creating a bleach solution by mixing:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach per gallon (128 fl. oz.) of room temperature water OR
- 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart (32 fl. oz.) of room temperature water.
Soak your mask in the bleach solution for five minutes, then discard the bleach solution and rinse your mask thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.
Drying Your Mask
You can dry your mask in the dryer along with your regular laundry. Use the highest heat setting available on your dryer and leave the mask in the dryer until it is completely dry all the way through.
You can also air-dry your mask. Once thoroughly washed and disinfected, lay your mask flat and allow to dry completely. If possible, it is best to dry your mask in direct sunlight by placing outside on a flat surface or hanging to dry.
For the best protection, the CDC recommends wearing a mask correctly and consistently. For more information about masking or COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 resource library.
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