The year 2020 made face masks a necessity when stepping out of the house. Today, they are as important as our wallets or keys. But, it is important to understand that since this piece of fabric covers our nose and mouth, it is very crucial to clean it in a proper manner after use. According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), we should wash our face mask regularly depending on the frequency of use, but how often is “regularly” is the question we are here to answer today.
The masks most commonly used are cloth, N95, and disposable masks.
Experts suggest that cloth masks should be washed after every use. “It is best to have two masks to wear alternatively so that we have at least one clean mask available at all times. One reusable mask can be worn for one entire day and then can be washed before going to bed the same day. However, it needs to be changed if it becomes wet or soiled,” said Dr Bela Sharma, additional director, internal medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram
Similarly, disposable or surgical masks should be disposed of properly after single use. However, it is best to use reusable masks as disposable masks pollute the environment. This general rule applies to everyone, from people who live in an area with very few COVID-19 cases to those who reside in a crowded city.
N95 masks generally worn by healthcare professionals, can be reused up to five days, and need to be discarded then.
Why is washing face masks necessary?
“It is important to wash face masks because it gets contaminated. Also, since it touches the nose and mouth, it’s possible that viral particles on the mask go into our respiratory system and infect us. Washing our face mask regularly is hygienic and it also helps in preventing smells,” mentioned Dr Sharma.
How to wash face masks?
You can wash masks just like any other fabric item. You can either wash it in the washing machine or by hand with soap and water. Using soap is a good way to destroy the virus, if at all it is on it. It is best to use hot water while washing a face mask. Also, if your mask is visibly soiled, or you have coughed and sneezed into it, you must wash it as soon you get the opportunity to, post which wash our hands too. If one can make a double-layered mask, an additional layer of tissue can be placed between the two layers for extra filtration.
How to ensure face masks stay clean while wearing them?
You can follow a few steps to ensure that your masks are clean while you wear it. It is best not to touch the outside portion of the mask. While wearing it and taking it off, only touch the straps. Another crucial point to remember is that we should never share our masks with another person. Also, replace reusable masks every six to 12 months or whenever you can see light through the cloth when held up against a light source as this is a sign that the material is compromised.
“Masks are our reality now and they are one of the best ways to keep ourselves protected from the virus. Therefore, to feel fresh when wearing a mask, we should always keep it clean by washing it regularly. Also, remember that single-use disposable face masks cannot be washed and must be thrown away correctly after use,” said Dr Sharma.