How to Clean Your Mask at Home

by nyljaouadi1
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Whether you’re concerned about contamination or want to do your best to prevent maskne, cleaning is an important part of maintaining a cloth face mask.

But mask-cleaning is hardly a standard household skill, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing it right. Sure, you can toss your mask in the washing machine and call it a day, but is that really the way to go? What kind of soap should you use? And how should you dry the thing?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a whole section on its website dedicated to mask cleaning.

Before you even get to the washing part, it’s worth a quick primer on how to remove your mask the right way. That means following these steps, per the CDC:

  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing your mask.
  • Untie the strings of the mask behind your head or stretch the ear loops.
  • Handle your mask only by the ear loops or ties.
  • Fold the outside corners together.
  • Place your mask in the washing machine.
  • Wash your hands immediately after removing the mask.

    In other words, treat your mask like the biohazard that it is.

    From there, let the cleaning begin. Here are a few things to keep in mind about cleaning your mask the right way, so you can stay safe while extend the life of your mask in the process.

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    How often should you wash your face mask?

    The CDC recommends that you wash it “regularly,” but other experts recommend trying to clean it after every use.

    Ariel Skelley

    “You want to wear a clean mask every time you step out the door,” says Isabel Valdez, an instructor of internal medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. “So, assuming you have only a few, wash them after every outing so you always have a fresh one ready.”

    In certain situations, you might need to swap out your mask for a fresh one more than once when you’re out. “If you are sneezing a lot because of seasonal allergies, then you may want to change them frequently throughout the day,” says Suzanne Willard, Ph.D., a clinical professor and associate dean for global health at the Rutgers School of Nursing. Ditto if your mask gets dirty or wet when you’re out, she says.

    What kind of laundry detergent is best for washing masks?

    The CDC specifically says you can use “regular laundry detergent” to clean your mask.

    man wearing grey sweater carrying basket of cleaner clothes at laundry room


    But Willard recommends being wary of using harsher cleaning agents like bleach—or, in any case, using them often.

    “Harsh detergents and cleaners like bleach can break down the threads,” she says. “While you could use a bleach water, know that your mask integrity will not last.”

    “I would throw them in with the rest of the wash,” Willard says. You can even use a lingerie bag to decrease wear and tear on your mask in the washer, she says.

    If your mask contains a disposable filter, you’ll want to take it out before you wash it. “The filters are often paper,” and putting that through the wash “will destroy it,” Willard says. But if it’s a reusable filter and made of fabric, you should be OK to put it through the wash, she says.

    Can you hand-wash masks?


    daily cleaning of face masks amid covid 19 pandemic

    Catherine McQueen

    The CDC offers up some pretty specific instructions for how to clean your mask by hand:

    • Use bleach containing 5.25 percent to 8.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. (Don’t use a bleach product if the percentage is not in this range or is not specified, the CDC says.)
      • Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
        • 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room-temperature water or
        • 4 teaspoons per quart of room-temperature water
      • Soak the mask in the bleach solution for five minutes.
      • Pour the bleach solution down the drain and rinse the mask thoroughly with cool or room-temperature water.

        Keep in mind, though, that regularly using bleach on your mask will definitely cause your mask to wear down faster than if you just used regular detergent.

        What’s the best way to dry a washed face mask?

        If you’re drying your mask in your clothes dryer, the CDC recommends using the highest heat setting and leaving your mask in there until it’s fully dry.

        covid 19 mask drying


        If you plan to air-dry your mask, the CDC suggests laying it flat and, if possible, placing the mask in direct sunlight.

        Can you really use an Instant Pot to clean a non-cloth mask?

        In random news, a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters found that the dry heat of an electric cooker (like an Instant Pot) can sanitize face masks. Researchers in this particular study cleaned N95 masks during a 50-minute cycle, but study co-author Thanh Nguyen, Ph.D., a professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says this method will likely work on cloth face masks, too. However, she points out, “most cloth face masks can be washed with soap and water in the washing machine.”

        However you wash your mask, just do it regularly. It’s an essential part of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

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