Coronavirus: How to Care for Your Face Mask

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Now that many areas are recommending wearing non-medical face masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus that’s led to the global pandemic — you might have bought or made face masks or coverings for yourself and your family. Here’s how to care for them, with tips from Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention.

How many face masks do I need?

It’s a good idea to have at least two. This way, you will have a fresh mask if one is in the wash.

Consider your schedule and your lifestyle. Ideally, you’re staying at home most of the time. But you will want a clean mask whenever you go someplace where maintaining consistent physical and social distancing (at least 6 feet away from others) might be a challenge, including:

  • A trip to the grocery store.
  • A ride on public transportation.
  • A visit to your doctor.
  • Close interactions with others while you’re on the job, if you are an essential employee.

When is it safe to take my mask off?

Keep your mask on until you have finished your trip, errand or work shift. You can remove it outside, once you are away from others, or in your car on your way home. Don’t forget to bring your mask inside to be cleaned. If you wait to take your mask off until you have returned home, it may be easier to put it directly into the laundry.

What’s the best way to take off (doff) a face mask?

  1. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
  2. Don’t touch the front of the mask or your face.
  3. Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom ones first, then the top ones.
  4. If your mask has filters, remove them and throw them away. Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering.
  5. Clean your hands again.
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How often should I clean my face mask or covering?

You should clean your mask after every wearing. This reduces the risk of spreading the coronavirus or other germs.

How do I clean my face mask?

  • Bandannas, face scarves and masks made of fabric, such as cotton, can be washed in your regular laundry using hot water.
  • Disposable, blue surgical masks cannot be laundered or cleaned and should be thrown away when it is visibly soiled or damaged.
  • After laundering your fabric masks, tumble dry them in the dryer on a high setting.
  • You might consider using a non-scented laundry detergent if you are sensitive to perfumes so it is easier to wear the masks.
  • You can also hand wash your mask, using hot, soapy water. Scrub the mask for at least 20 seconds, and dry them on high heat in the dryer.
  • Store clean masks in a clean place when you are not using them.
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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Posted: May 1, 2020