Yes, You Do Need to Wash Your Fabric Face Mask After Each Use

Hedy Phillips
Ethnic girl standing outside wearing a protective mask during a beautiful sunset.
Ethnic girl standing outside wearing a protective mask during a beautiful sunset.

While it's incredibly important to wear a face mask in public to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it's equally important to make sure you wash your masks properly. Just how often should you clean a cloth mask? The short answer - and the one you probably don't want to hear - is every time you wear it. Mike Sevilla, MD, a practicing family physician in Ohio, told POPSUGAR that it's wise to wash your fabric face mask after each use, a recommendation that's in line with the CDC's guidance.

When you come home, take care to remove your mask properly. You should avoid touching the fabric, handling only the ear loops or ties as you take off the mask. If possible, place it straight into the washing machine or sink to be washed, and immediately wash your hands. If you can't wash it right away, place the mask in a resealable plastic bag to wash later.

Alexa Mieses Malchuk, MD, a practicing family physician in North Carolina, told POPSUGAR that she recommends having multiple face masks on hand, if possible, so it's easier to rotate them. That way there's less worry about having time to wash and dry them between each use.

Related: A Doctor Explains Why You Should Social Distance Even While Wearing a Face Mask

Should I Still Social Distance If I Wear a Face Mask?
Should I Still Social Distance If I Wear a Face Mask?

How Do I Wash a Cloth Face Mask?

Follow the CDC's guidelines for cleaning your mask. If you have a washing machine, you can wash the mask with your regular laundry, using detergent and the warmest setting possible. If you need to wash cloth masks by hand, soak them in a bleach solution for five minutes before rinsing. (You can add the bleach to water, but avoid mixing it with any other chemicals, like ammonia.)

"I advise my patients that it's OK to place the face covering in the dryer, but make sure that you dry at the highest setting," Dr. Sevilla said. "For air-drying, lay flat the face covering and allow it to dry completely. If possible, place the face covering in direct sunlight."

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.

More From

  • What Parents Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine - and Why They Should Get It

    With the entire world anxiously awaiting the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is certainly sobering to discover that, based on a recent poll from the Associated Press, only about half of Americans said they would get a vaccine. Roughly 30 percent weren't sure if they'd get vaccinated, and one in five said they'd refuse.

  • This Hack For Treating Cold Sores Has Saved Me So Much Money on Over-the-Counter Meds

    If you're among the 50 percent of Americans who get cold sores - otherwise known as fever blisters - then you know just how annoying they can be. Those pesky, and often incredibly painful, sores always seem to crop up at exactly the wrong time, whether you have a presentation at work, are going on a first date, or have to be part of a bridal party within the week. Like my mom, I have unfortunately suffered from cold sores my entire life. As a little kid, I got them constantly, so I've had to learn a few hacks for treating them along the way. While adults are much more understanding about them - you have no idea how many rude comments I used to get on the playground! - feeling that initial, unmistakable tingle always makes me groan. For many people, getting older means getting cold sores less often, however, once you have the strain of the herpes simplex virus - aka herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) - there's no way to get rid of it. While oral pills like Valtrex have been developed to prevent outbreaks, many people don't feel like taking a prescription every day to keep them at bay. Over the years, I have found two helpful ways to lessen the severity of cold sores as soon as you start to feel one coming on. Your first line of defense is taking Lysine Tablets ($7), an oral supplement you can find at any drugstore, as soon as you feel the tingle. (If you're particularly ambitious, take one every day to curb them from cropping up for good.) As anyone who gets cold sores know, sometimes you simply can't act fast enough, especially if you wake up with one. Although I've spent hundreds of dollars on over-the-counter medication in the past, I found a more effective way to treat fever blisters after desperately scouring the internet. All you need are some toothpaste and regular old salt to make an at-home remedy that will dry out cold sores with just a few applications. Scroll ahead to get the easy step-by-step instructions. Related: I Did 7 Minutes of Hip Stretches Every Day; After 2 Weeks, My Body Felt Completely Different

  • Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger Welcome Their First Child

    Congrats are in order for Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger, who have welcomed their first child together, a baby girl, People confirmed on Monday. Shortly after, Chris shared an Instagram photo of him and Katherine holding their daughter's hand.

  • Kylie Skin's New Face Sunscreen Made Me Stop Dreading Wearing SPF

    If I could give my younger self some advice, I would tell her two things: 1) please don't date that guy, and 2) start wearing sunscreen ASAP. If I had started wearing sunscreen 10 years ago, would I have these premature undereye wrinkles?