Staying Safe: How Should I Care for My Masks?
Once you’ve chosen the right type of mask and learned about wearing it properly, check out these simple tips for caring for face masks and ensuring you get the best protection possible from them.
Reusing and Cleaning Masks
Depending on the type of mask and its condition, you may be able to clean, store and use it again.
Cloth face masks should be laundered after every wearing. After carefully removing your mask, place it in your washing machine or an enclosed hamper (then wash your hands). Dry your mask in the dryer or by hanging (in sunlight, if possible, see below). If your cloth mask becomes damaged or develops holes or visible stains, discard it.
Disposable masks (dust masks, surgical masks) made of paper are meant to be used once and discarded. However, if you wear one for only a short time and it’s still clean, you may consider wearing it later the same day. Remove the mask carefully (with clean hands, grasping only the loops or ties) and hang it (ideally near a window or in direct sunlight). Make sure it can’t be touched or fall to the ground.
Filtering/respirator masks can’t be cleaned because they have specialized filters that are damaged by chemicals and agitation. To reuse one of these masks, also known as N95 or KN95 masks, use strict clean-hands techniques and store it carefully in a secure place (also in the sun, if you can).
The Power of UV Light
Did you know that the sun can act as a disinfectant? When it comes to drying your cloth mask or airing out a filtering/respirator mask, hanging it in direct sunlight may help sterilize it. However, be aware that only the areas directly exposed to UV rays are affected, and the more time allowed, the better.
Discarding a Mask
When it’s time to dispose of any face mask, think about safety. Remove it with clean hands, place it in an enclosed trash container (not an open wastebasket) and then wash your hands again.
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