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."

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