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Don't Forget to Clean Your Reusable Face Masks! Here's How...

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Since you and I are going to be wearing face masks for a while, it’s important we know how to clean our reusable face masks, ’cause…ew. Thankfully, organizations such as the Center for Disease Control have determined the best practices for making sure your face covering is clean. Here are some basic tips on how to clean your face mask.

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Keep your cloth face mask clean when you put it on.

A woman putting on a fabric face mask.

Always wash your hands before you put on your cloth face mask. Because if you don’t, it kind of defeats the purpose.


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Use the washing machine to clean your reusable face mask.

A hand tossing a fabric face mask into a washing machine.

With these reusable face masks, you can definitely wash your face mask with the rest of your clothing. Your standard laundry detergent will do the trick. But, make sure you use the warmest setting (think at least 140°F or higher) to kill those germs.


You can also wash your face mask by hand.

A person holding a bottle of Clorox bleach next to a sink with the tap running while wearing rubber dish gloves.

You also have the option to wash your face mask by hand. Just keep in mind that, over time, bleach is harmful to cloth fabric and may cause discoloration.

Here is a quick step-by-step:

  1. Double-check to see if you have bleach made for disinfection.
  2. Never mix bleach with any other cleaning products. The chemicals could react and get toxic. Or melt your mask.
  3. But don’t use straight bleach because it’s too strong. Make a bleach solution by mixing together either four teaspoons of bleach for every quart of room temperature water or five tablespoons of bleach for every gallon of water.
  4. Once your solution is made, soak your cloth face mask for five minutes.
  5. After it’s done soaking, give it a good rinse with room temperature or cooler water. I always soak mine in clean water a few times because I don’t like the smell of bleach.


Throw your reusable face mask in the dryer (or air dry it).

A hand tossing a fabric face mask into a dryer.

It’s important to make sure your cloth face mask is completely dry. The easiest thing is to toss it in the dryer with the rest of your clean clothes. Linen and cotton masks can shrink if the heat is too high, so make sure to check the ideal dryer setting for your fabric.

If your machine dryer is out of commission or in use, just air dry it. If you’ve got a clothesline or a way of hanging your face mask in direct sunlight, that’s ideal. If not, just lay out your facial covering on a flat surface in front of a window and wait for it to fully dry.

Keep in mind that the CDC recommends using an air dryer for a more thorough cleaning.


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Don’t forget to properly store your face mask.

A woman putting a fabric face mask into a brown paper bag.

If you put your cloth face mask in your purse or car and plan to wear it again, fold it so the inside stays inside. Again, if you leave the part your mouth touches exposed, it kind of defeats the purpose. Store your folded mask in a fresh paper bag with “Clean” written on the outside or plastic sandwich bag and wash your hands afterward. Don’t stick your face mask in your pockets, or let it hang out in your purse, because that’s germy, too.

TIP: I only fold my mask inside out when it’s time to wash it. Since I have so many face masks in little bags, the only way I know it’s time to wash one is by seeing if it’s inside out in the zip bag. Or, you can have a paper bag marked “dirty” in your car that you stick dirty face masks in and toss them into the wash all at once.


But how often should you use a cloth face mask before washing it?

A woman holding two fabric face masks, one navy blue, one bright orange.

Some sources say you should wash your face mask around once a week. Others say wash your face mask every one to two uses, and yet others insist you should wash it daily. I guess the jury is out on this one. But, mine get gross, so I keep a few of them in zip bags in my purse. When one gets dirty, I toss it in the wash, which I am constantly doing anyway.


You can reuse your disposable face mask, but be careful with it.

A woman putting a disposable face mask into a plastic zip lock bag.

Disposable masks can be reused as well, but some recommend that instead of cleaning them, simply leave them in a closed and clean environment such as a new paper or plastic bag for a few days. However, if your disposable mask looks torn or dirty at all, or has lipstick all over it, toss it.


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old navy worker in a mask sells to customer in a mask


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