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Washing your face mask: What you need to know
How often should you wash it? Does the same apply for all types? Your questions answered.
As wearing a face mask becomes part of your everyday routine, you’ve got to know how to care for them. And this can depend on the type of face mask you’re using.
Surgical masks are for strictly one-time use, so they should be carefully discarded. However, if you’ve got one that is made out of cloth and/or is reusable, these should be washed after every use. Re-using a cloth mask without washing is risky because it can become contaminated or may not be as effective in protecting you.
Lee Shu Lay is the Infection Control Manager at Thomson Medical Centre. She advocates using a mild detergent or soap to wash your mask. Baby soap is a good choice. You can wash your mask in your usual laundry load but bear in mind that your mask may get stained if you wash it with coloured clothes.
Ideally, soak the reusable mask in half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in hot water for half an hour before washing. You can use a tumble dryer to dry your mask, but it is advisable to air dry to extend its lifespan.
How to wash your face mask
Always wash your hands before and after handling your face mask.
Before washing, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum temperature that the fabric can handle.
The World Health Organization recommends washing fabric masks in soap or detergent, with hot water (preferably at least 60 degrees). If you’ve got a busy schedule, you can also throw it in the washing machine along with your other clothes, but just make sure you use a delicate cycle, that way the material doesn’t stretch.
Don’t have any hot water available? Wash the mask in soap/detergent and room-temperature water. This should then be followed by either boiling the mask for one minute or soaking the mask in 0.1% chlorine for 1 minute and thoroughly rinsing the mask with room temperature water. If you do choose to do this, you need to make sure it’s completely rinsed and there’s no toxic residue left over.
Once the washing process is all done, it needs to be dried. The best option is to let it dry naturally, ideally outdoors in the sun. You can use your dryer if you urgently need it again, but don’t rely on this as your regular method.
Finally, store your mask in a clean airtight bag. Not only can this easily be stored in a travel bag, but it can also prevent any particles or germs from landing on it.
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