How Often Can You Wear Reusable Masks Between Washing?

Wearing face masks has become a daily practice, and here's what you need to know regarding how often you should be cleaning your face mask.

A lot has changed in your life after COVID-19. For one thing, you’re now a lot more knowledgeable about terms like social distancing and learning how to make your own DIY face mask. But once you’ve made your own face mask or bought your own reusable face mask, how long can you wear your face mask between washings? And how do you properly wash a DIY face mask, anyway?

How often should you wash your face mask?

Still life of face masks hanging at clothesline against clear sky and sun, DIY sewing projectthe_burtons/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus lasts on surfaces longer than you may think, and it’s important that the general public wears face masks and knows how to properly take care of them. For this article, we’re talking about cloth face masks you would wear every day.

But how often should you wash cloth face masks between wears? The CDC recommends washing your facemask routinely, “depending on the frequency of use.” Dr. Daniel Griffin, a member of the Division of Infectious Diseases and an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University, tells NPR that you should think of face masks like underwear, and that face masks should be washed after each time you wear it.

“You don’t take this dirty mask off, put it in your purse and then stick it back on your face,” Griffin tells NPR. “It’s something that once you put on, is potentially either touching your coughs, sneezes or the spray of your speech or protecting you from the coughs, spray, speech of other people. And now it’s dirty. It needs to basically be either discarded or washed.” When it comes to cleaning, it’s important to know that there are differences in cleaning terms. Here’s the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting.

How to disinfect your face mask

The World Health Organization (WHO) shows you in a YouTube video how you can properly remove your cloth face mask. You carefully remove the elastic bands from behind your ears and avoid touching the front of the face mask. Once you’ve removed the face mask without touching the front, the CDC recommends cleaning it in a washing machine. You can also disinfect your DIY face mask by handwashing it in the kitchen sink or placing it in the oven. Next, take a look at what we can’t wait to do when quarantine ends.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest