Wearing a face covering, in combination with proper handwashing
, social distancing
and other preventative measures (e.g., avoiding close contact with those who are ill), can help slow the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Although disposable paper face masks may be convenient and effective, reusable cloth (a.k.a. fabric) face coverings can save you money over time—and help protect the planet. Plus, they come in a variety of fashionable shades and patterns that allow you to showcase your personal style while protecting yourself and others!
The CDC recommends washing fabric face masks after every use. If you’re among the many cloth face mask
wearers who aren’t quite sure how to clean this important piece of protective gear, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn how to properly wash and dry your fabric face coverings.
How to machine wash cloth face masks
Believe it or not, you can actually toss your fabric face masks into the washing machine with your normal load(s) of laundry. Use regular laundry detergent
and be sure to select the warmest possible water setting for the type of cloth (e.g., cotton, polyester blend) used to make the face covering.
How to hand wash your face masks
Hand washing face coverings involves using a bleach solution
.* Following are some important safety guidelines for handling bleach:
- Always read/follow directions on product label
- Wear gloves to protect skin (you may also want to consider wearing glasses or goggles to protect the eyes)
- Always verify that bleach hasn’t expired
- Always use bleach in a well-ventilated area
- Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleansers
- Use room temperature water to dilute bleach
- Store bleach in a safe place where children and pets can’t access it
- Individuals with certain respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma) may want to avoid using bleach/area(s) where bleach is being used
Before preparing your bleach solution, read the product label to make sure it may be used for disinfection. Some bleaches, like certain color-safe varieties, may not disinfect face coverings properly. To effectively disinfect your face masks, the bleach must contain between 5.25 and 8.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. If the percentage doesn’t fall within this range, choose a different type of bleach.
To prepare the bleach solution, add four teaspoons of bleach to a quart of room-temperature water or one-third cup (five tablespoons) of bleach to a gallon of room temperature water and allow your masks to soak in the mixture for at least five minutes.
After your face coverings have been sanitized, pour any remaining bleach solution down the drain and rinse them thoroughly with room-temperature or cool water.
How to dry your face masks
Always dry your face coverings completely after washing them. As with washing, you have two solutions for dying fabric face masks. You can lay them flat and allow them to air dry (bonus points for letting them dry in direct sunlight!) or you can toss them into your dryer. If you select option number two, be sure to use the highest heat setting and don’t take masks out of the dryer until they have dried thoroughly.
*Please note that repeated exposure to bleach can damage fabrics over time.