Face masks help in reducing the spread of COVID-19 because they provide a barrier to catch the respiratory droplets that are released when people cough, sneeze, or talk.These droplets are what carry the virus from person to person, according to Dr. Steve Pergam, MPH, medical director of infection prevention at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.If a nearby person inhales the droplets or they land inside their mouth or nose, they may contract an infection with the virus.
If a person touches a contaminated mask then touches their mouth or nose, they might also potentially contract an infection.For this reason, it’s important that masks be cleaned and sanitizedTrusted Source on a regular basis.Here’s how you can safely disinfect common types of masks for reuse during the pandemic, and how to handle medical-grade masks that can’t easily be cleaned properly outside of a medical setting.
Proper care of cloth face masks
Debra Goff, PharmD, FIDSA, FCCP, an infectious diseases specialist and professor of pharmacy practice at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says that cloth masks, bandanas, scarves, and neck gaiters are all types of face masks that can be cleaned and reused.To machine-wash your mask, first wash your hands. Then remove the mask, being careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, she says.
Toss the mask directly into the washing machine and wash your hands immediately after.She recommends using your regular laundry detergent along with bleach and the warmest water recommended for that fabric type.Once the mask is laundered, dry on high heat until it’s completely dry.
If you’re planning to hand-wash your mask, Goff suggests following the same procedure of washing your hands before removing your mask.To disinfect your mask, soak it in a bleach solution containing 4 teaspoons of household bleach per each quart of water for 5 minutes.
After soaking the mask, rinse thoroughly with water.
Allow the mask to air-dry.
Goff says it’s best to clean cloth face masks after each use.