Early on in the COVID-19 outbreak here in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and many local governments urged individuals over the age of 2 to start wearing face coverings while in public. Since one major way that the virus spreads is “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks” (source: CDC), disposable and fabric face coverings have become an effective strategy in winning the fight against coronavirus.

Since most have never had to wear face coverings on a regular basis, people who use fabric masks are still unclear as to the proper way to wash their face masks. If you are unsure as to when/how to wash your fabric face masks, learn more about the proper techniques for staying healthy through the duration of the pandemic.

Wash after every use in public
According to the CDC, “face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.” When you wear your face mask out in public, it rapidly collects respiratory droplets on the front side. It also collects your own respiratory drops on the inside portion of the mask. Therefore, to stay as healthy as possible, it is crucial to wash your mask upon returning home after each use.

Wash on the hottest water setting available
Like other fabrics that carry extra germs (such as towels and bedding), it is important to wash your fabric face masks on the hottest water setting possible. The only exception is if your face mask is made with a special fabric, and came with specific care instructions that say otherwise. However, for standard reusable fabric masks, it is best to introduce as much heat as possible to get rid of viruses and other germs.

Air dry in a sanitary location or follow proper drying instructions
To prevent damage to the fabric, it is safest to air dry your face mask on a sanitary surface (such as a newly washed towel). If you choose this method, do not air dry your mask in the bathroom, or anywhere else there may be extra airborne germs.

If you are confident that the fabric used to make your face mask is suitable for a conventional dryer, you can choose this drying method. For extra protection, place your mask in mesh bag while drying.

Important note: Never wash or dry disposable masks. They are not designed for exposure to water/the heat of a dryer, and are intended to be thrown out after each single use.

For additional guidance on the proper use of face masks, please visit the CDC website.