With the daily wearing of face masks a reality around the world, it’s important that you’re following the proper care and maintenance of your reusable masks. When it comes to single-use surgical masks, these cannot be washed and after being worn once, should be disposed of in the bin (make sure to cut the straps before throwing away).
Much like plastic cutlery and takeaway coffee cups, surgical masks can only be used once and then are disposed of in a landfill. To avoid adding more rubbish to the earth, try to opt for reusable masks where possible. Investing in two cloth masks means you’ll always have one handy, even if one is in the wash.
How often should you wash your reusable mask?
Much like a surgical mask, a reusable mask should only be worn once before it needs to be washed.
“Just change it after every wear,” infectious disease epidemiologist, Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS, told Refinery29.
So, if you’ve been to the shops or out and about all day while wearing your mask, throw it straight into the washing machine when you get home.
While it might seem annoying, washing your fabric mask after every use is the best way to keep you safe and ensures that the mask will provide adequate protection every time you wear it.
NSW Health recommends having a separate mask for each time of the day — for example, one for the train in the morning, another for going out to buy lunch and one for the train in the evening. Once you arrive home, pop your collection of masks straight into the washing machine.
As NSW Health points out, you probably wouldn’t leave a used tissue on your desk, so try to treat your mask like a used handkerchief and don’t leave it floating around in your handbag or hanging under your chin. Instead, keep them stored in ziplock bags that can be hand washed after use.
How to wash a cloth face mask
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends washing fabric masks with soap and hot water once per day. You don’t need to hand wash it if you don’t want as most reusable masks are able to be put in the washing machine but just make sure you’re using hot water in the cycle as well as washing detergent.
Once the mask is washed, put it in the sun to dry completely before popping it into a reusable plastic ziplock bag, as recommended by WHO.
Investing in a few affordable face masks (like these ones that support small businesses) means you’ll never be caught out without a mask if one or two are in the wash or drying.
General mask guidance
In case you need a refresher in best practice mask usage, here are the Australian Government’s recommendations when it comes to mask-wearing:
— Masks with three-layers are best. Two-layered masks are the minimum.
— Wash or sanitise your hands before putting it on or taking it off
— Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face
— Do not touch the front of your mask while wearing or removing it
— Do not allow the mask to hang around your neck or under your nose
— Do not reuse single-use masks; wash and dry reusable masks after use and store in a clean dry place