Face masks have become a necessity while heading out. The little piece of protection on your nose and mouth goes through a lot of dirt, dust, and germs too. So, every time you put it on, it must be clean. Unknowingly we touch the mask; keep it at places where it might get dirty or catch germs. So, it’s imperative to keep a check on the frequency of its usage and routine wash.
Ideally, the mask you are wearing should be washed after each use. It’s because when you return home after finishing essential tasks, you might have met people, touching stuff, and then the hand went towards your mask. Also, people are accustomed to keeping the mask hanging to handles, putting in pockets where the chances of it becoming a more dirty increase. So, it is required to wash it off with hands in warm soapy water immediately after the usage or store it in a place where you will not forget to add it into the washing machine during the next laundry.
The cleaning frequency of the masks also depends upon the fabric. A Lot of people use an industrial or surgical mask, which is not a cloth and can be used once and thrown away. But if that becomes pricey or isn’t feasible, then switching to a cloth mask is preferable. But when it comes to a cloth mask, it comes with a rule to wash and keep it clean. Now, the question arises of instant availability when you want to head out. So making or buying multiple masks and keeping them clean after every usage can increase the availability of your masks, and you can be ready to go.
Collect and keep all cleaned masks in one place. Prefer places that are handy or with the stuff you usually carry while heading out like your wallet, keys, handbags, etc.
Before understanding what the frequency of cleaning the mask is, let’s understand why it is important to keep it clean.
Importance of washing face mask
i) If not your hands, then your mask can transmit the germs: We all know we use a mask to help the control of the spread. But as per a study conducted, it is proved that an average person keeps touching his mouth and nose now and then. So, if you touch any contaminated area and then touch the mask, then the possibility of viral particles on the mask can travel to your nose. Thus, the respiratory tract can get infected easily.
So yes, even though how many layers of mask you wear, if you touch your mask and have germs on your hand, they will travel through the mask. Most commonly we touch it with our hands, when we are taking it on and off, and setting it down in different places that might be already contaminated or you just made it by touching
ii) To avoid getting infected with any normal allergies: Its as simple as cleaning your clothes. Why do we wash our clothes? And we clean our clothes now and used to clean them before the pandemic also. The simple reason is the clothes get dirty or might be contaminated with any other bacteria, germs, fungi, or viruses. Further can cause you allergies, similarly if not the pandemic virus, but any other bacteria can contaminate the mask due to dust or dirt and can cause you allergies. So, a regular wash for hygienic reasons is a must.
iii) If not clean, it can contaminate other things along: Let’s consider that you are not exercising any essential travel. Once you are home and keep the used mask on a surface or in any corner, the chances that the contaminated mask can spread the germs very quickly to that part of the house or any other stuff around. So, in simple words, the mask carries the virus, and those viral particles can end up on the surfaces in your home.
Frequency of cleaning the masks
Before deciding the washing frequency of your fabric mask, consider your schedule and lifestyle.
Your travel might go from a grocery store to public transportation to even a place where social distancing norms or 6 feet distance is not possible. So, more exposure to the chance of the infection means more cleanliness requirements. If you spend most of the time at home and spend only 1-2 hours out, then cleaning the cloth face mask every night is a good choice. But what in the case, your job demands to be in contact with places, people where you spend almost your whole day. So in such scenarios changing or cleaning your masks every 2 hours is recommended.
Another suggestion is to observe your lifestyle and act accordingly. For instance, if you sneeze or cough in the mask, then probably you should consider cleaning it right away. If not possible to clean, then at least change it, the reason why you should always carry not one but a stash of masks with you. And as soon as you are home, clean and store them well.
Best way to wash and store face mask
Now the real question is how to ensure that the mask is cleaned adequately. Sure enough to remove the germs from the mask, and is ready to go for the next use.
Below are some tips to be followed:
i) Toss it in the laundry with detergent: You can add the masks to your daily laundry in the machine. Using good detergent to submerge or wash off the mask dirt can be a good way to ensure it’s cleaned properly
ii) Wash in hot water temperature: It’s recommended to wash the masks in the hot water temperature and then drying it in the hottest temperature possible or let it to air and dry naturally, preferably in the sun.
iii) Wash with hands and warm soapy water: It’s alright if you don’t have a washing machine you can still clean the mask very properly and make it safe for use the next time. It’s suggested to lather the masks with soap and scrub them for at least 20 seconds with warm to hot water.
iv) Deep hand Laundering: One of the easiest and effective ways to ensure all the components are thoroughly removed can be done by diluting liquid or powder detergent in hot water, submerging the mask in the solution and letting it soak for 20 minutes and agitating it for 30 to 60 seconds before to lift dirt and body soils.
Remember, too much detergent or scented liquids can make you inhale chemicals. So be wise while choosing the methods of cleaning your mask, and once the masks are cleaned, make sure to store them in a clean place when you are not using them. If you know that you might need to go out a lot of times, then keep a stash of clean masks ready. Be careful to store them in a place where they won’t come in contact with contaminated areas or stuff.
Keep your masks hygienic before using them as they can also be medium for the virus to transmit. So, if you keep it clean, you already reduce the risk of spreading the contamination, and it also makes it safer to be used another time.