Wash, rinse, repeat: How to wear, clean, and store your cloth mask

Move over designer handbags and trucker hats. Masks are all the rage in 2020. Of course, face coverings and masks are necessary for health and safety — they’re not statements of fashion. But regardless, masks are a high-demand accessory, equal parts must-have and must-wear. 

And just like anything else you might don each day, masks need to be washed and properly cared for. After all, no one wants to repurpose the makeup, chapstick, lotions, dead skin cells, and sweat that can all reside in a cloth mask after you wear it. 

First, here’s a quick review on how to properly wear a mask. Make sure it:

  • Covers your full nose.
  • Covers your entire chin. 
  • Fits snug with no gaps.
  • Is made of thick material. (Hold it up to the light. If you can see between the fibers, it’s not a good filter.)

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, a mask should be worn in all public places and when social distancing isn’t possible. Routine and frequent washing of your masks is recommended. While most of us are trying to stay home more and avoiding public places, sometimes that isn’t possible. If you find yourself wearing your mask more than a few hours total each day, it should be washed before reuse.

How to wash your cloth mask

If your mask is machine-washable, you can include it with your laundry using regular detergent and the warmest appropriate water temperature for the load. In the dryer, use the highest heat setting possible and don’t take it out until it’s completely dry. 

If your mask can’t go in the washer or a machine washer isn’t available, you can sanitize it by hand with a bleach solution. First though, make sure the bleach you have is intended for disinfection. Some bleaches are made for colored clothing and might not disinfect properly. After confirming you have the correct bleach, follow these steps:

  • Mix ¼ cup of bleach and one quart of room temperature water. 
  • Soak your mask in the solution for five minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly with cool water.
  • Lay flat and allow to dry completely.

Other reminders to keep you and your mask hygienic:

  • Don’t touch the front of your mask. Use the ear or head fasteners to remove it.
  • Wash your hands immediately after removal.   
  • Don’t store masks in pockets or purses. Instead, carefully fold the mask so the outside is folded inward against itself and place it in a clean paper bag.

Remember to do your part by wearing a mask to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and continue to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing. These three simple steps are still the best defense we have to reduce transmission. And that’s always in fashion!