Covid-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we live our lives. More than ever, we’re concerned about hygiene and are taking all precautions to protect ourselves and break the infection chain.
Social distancing, gloves, hand sanitizers and face masks have all become an essential part of our lives. You’ve most probably worn disposable face masks as well as washable face masks made from fabric.
If you’re currently using cloth face masks that are reusable, it is vital that you give it proper care.
Why use a washable face mask?
There are many reasons to use a washable face mask:
- Washable face masks have less impact on the environment. They can be reused for a certain number of times and you will not be contributing to the carbon footprint of disposable face masks.
- Washable face masks can be just as effective as disposable/surgical masks in ideal conditions, depending on its fit as well as type of material it is made from.
- You save some money with washable face masks. While the initial price of these masks is higher compared to disposable masks, they are meant to last. You won’t have to keep buying new ones.
- Some washable face masks have stylish patterns, so if you love fashion, you can pair it up with your outfit.
Caring for your fabric face mask
It is important to care for your fabric face mask. After all, if you’re wearing it to keep yourself safe from germs and viruses, you wouldn’t want to put on a dirty or contaminated one!
Here’s how you can care for your washable face mask.
How to clean washable face masks?
You can wash your face mask using a washing machine, or by hand.
If you’re using a washing machine, you can include it with your normal load of laundry. Regular detergent can be used, but do check your fabric label so that your washing machine is at appropriate settings. Some manufacturers do recommend that you use the delicate cycle.
If you’re washing by hand, tap water or warm water with laundry detergent or soap will get your mask clean. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap or detergent residue.
How often should you wash your cloth face mask?
A washable face mask should be washed each time you wear it. Thus, if you wear it daily, it needs to be cleaned every day. This is especially if you’re using it to go about your daily errands, as you run the risk of collecting droplets on the mask’s fabric.
In fact, if you feel that you have been exposed to Covid-19, you might want to wash it as soon as possible. For example, if you’re out grocery shopping and someone sneezes directly on you, you definitely don’t want to wait too long before washing as it has a higher risk of infection.
What should I use to wash my fabric face mask?
Soap and warm water is sufficient to free your mask of germs, virus and bacteria. Thus, the usual detergent that you use at home should be good enough to wash your mask. Do keep in mind that you should wash them for at least 20 seconds so that the soap can do its work.
How about filters?
Some washable masks have reusable filters as well. These can be used two or three times before washing is needed. Filters should be washed by hand, as they are generally more delicate than the face mask itself.
You can put it in the dryer or use a hair dryer to dry it after washing. Most filters however, are for one time use. It’s also good to remember that your filter’s effectiveness is reduced after every wash, so best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines on when to replace it.
How to store fabric masks?
Once you’ve cleaned your mask, you want to make sure to store it well so that it does not get dirty. You can store it in a new paper bag, or utilize a mask storage box made specially for this purpose.
Best washable face mask
The best washable face masks should be able to:
- Cover your mouth and your nose.
- Remain secure under your chin as well as the bridge of your nose.
- Have a snug fit on your face but doesn’t make it hard to breathe.
Ensure that your face mask fits well so that it is effective in protecting you from viruses and other microbes.
Washable face mask with filter
In addition to a fit snug over your nose and mouth, it is also recommended that the washable face mask has a ‘pocket’ in which you can place the filter or is ready fitted with a middle layer to enhance microfiltration.
ProXMask is made of 3 layers. The outer layer shields you from infectious droplets, while the middle layer improves filtration of microbes. The innermost layer’s quick dry properties ensure that you stay comfortable when you have the mask on.
Whether we like it or not, face masks will continue to be part of our lives for some time. As the fight against the pandemic continues, remember to wear your mask if you’re going out to crowded spaces.
The article is a part of our comprehensive series on “Face mask: Preventing the spread of Covid-19”
Yii Change Bong
Medical Officer, Proxmask
Dr Yii Change Bong is an occupational health doctor with demonstrated experience working with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.
Having worked as a Medical Officer in Hospital Umum Sarawak and Sarawak General Hospital, Kuching for more than 5 years, he holds a strong presence in the fields of occupational health services, medical surveillance, and also in providing medical education.
In 2020 Dr Bong was the COVID-19 taskforce PPE liaison as the person in charge of personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers in the hospital during the early stages of the pandemic.