By now, you’ve probably found a few face masks that you like for the situations where you need them. How to wash masks, however, is just as important as wearing one – even so far in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worth saying loud and clear: you shouldn’t wear your favorite mask unless you are. ‘it is not clean.
« We live all the time with bacteria and viruses in the ambient air and in the environment », explains Rachid Chotani, MD a resident epidemiologist from HealthCentral. « So the more you wear a mask that has not been washed, the more potential you have of being exposed to other bacteria and viruses. In other words, by wearing a dirty face mask, you are more likely to bring other non-COVID germs near your face. And while you can’t get COVID, of course you can end up getting sick this way!
Dr Chotani says to consider the following example: you wear a face mask all day, take it off and put it on a table. This mask picks up additional bacteria from any surface it touches. When you put it back on your nose and mouth, you expose yourself to these bacteria. What if your mask Is contain SARS-CoV-2 particles on the outside, you can also touch them when you continuously remove and reapply the same mask.
Wearing dirty masks is also a disservice to your skin. A mask that is not properly washed can have an oil build-up on it. “This is made worse by the oil you produce underneath each day and this will help clog your pores,” says Corey hartman, MD, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. Wearing a face mask can also lead to inflammation of the skin and worsen existing conditions such as rosacea or reddened scaly patches called seborrheic dermatitis.
And while people can attribute acne masks (aka « maskne ») to the increased wearing of face coverings, Dr. Hartman says that for many people, « it’s really the failure to clean them properly. which causes the problems and makes them persist. I would say that infrequent washing or changing your mask is more detrimental than wearing the mask itself. »
How do I wash my sheet masks?
Washing your cloth mask is as easy as throwing it in the laundry – you don’t have to worry about putting them in a separate load, or on the delicate cycle, or really special considerations. Just wash them! “You can put them on with your usual clothes with detergent and wash them like you wash any clothing,” says Dr Chotani. Make sure you dry your masks well before putting them on so they don’t form mold.
“A heat dryer will do a great job of killing germs, as will drying the mask in direct sunlight,” says Shira doron, MD, infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center.
Is it okay to wash a COVID-19 face mask by hand?
A 2020 to study by researchers at UNSW Sydney found that the risk of infection with seasonal respiratory viruses was double among healthcare workers in hospitals who wash their masks by hand compared to those who put them in the washing machine . There were some limitations to the study, such as the fact that healthcare workers self-reported their mask washing habits. The study authors also note that the data focused specifically on two-layer fabric masks and « cannot be generalized to all fabric masks. » Still, Dr Doron says running your mask through the washing machine where it can be washed off with hot water is ideal. But if you don’t have a washer or dryer at home, that’s okay – Dr Chotani explains how to wash masks by hand.