Most cities in the United States require people to wear non-medical face masks or facial coverings while out in public settings, where social distancing is not possible. In addition to social distancing and regular hand washing, wearing face masks helps to slow the spread of COVID-19. Face masks help to protect you and others from contracting the virus, but you need to care for them correctly for them to be effective.
How Many Masks Do You Really Need?
In the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people went out to purchase surgical masks, N95 respirators, or disposable masks. That is when panic buying set in because people freaked out. Within the past couple months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that people only need cloth facial coverings, and surgical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for health workers. In reality, you only need two reusable cloth face masks, especially since you should be at home most of the time. You will need more if you are an essential worker, or if your office has reopened. You need a mask when you:
- Go to the grocery store
- Visit the doctor
- Ride public transportation
- Pick up food at a restaurant
- Have close interactions with others you don’t know
- Are at work
How To Properly Clean Your Mask
Ideally, you should clean your mask after each outing. This reduces the possibility of spreading the coronavirus or other bacteria. If you wear disposable, blue surgical masks, you cannot wash them. You should throw them away when damaged or contaminated, or after each use. There are several ways to clean your masks:
Use The Washing Machine
- Bandanas, face scarves, and other cloth face masks made from fabrics like cotton can be washed in your washing machine. Toss them in with delicates or regular laundry, use detergent, and wash on the warmest setting to efficiently sanitize the masks.
Wash By Hand
- Prepare a bleach solution by mixing five tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water. Make sure the bleach you use is for disinfection, as some household bleach products are not suitable for that.
- If your masks are not white, you may not want to go this route.
- Soak the face covering in the bleach solution for five minutes.
- Rinse well with room temperature water.
Dry Your Mask In The Dryer
Air Dry Your Mask
- After washing your mask, throw it in the dryer on the highest heat setting and dry completely.
- Lay your mask flat on a clean towel and dry completely.
- Ideally, hang your mask in direct sunlight to dry quickly.