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Face masks: How can I keep my mask clean?

Face masks can be used to protect ourselves from viruses and germs. If you are choosing to wear a mask, find out how to clean and sanitise them effectively.

Updated

Lady holding homemade orange patterned mask.

Face masks: How can I keep my mask clean?

In the face of the global health crisis, many people are wearing face masks to protect themselves and the people around them. While wearing a face mask does not substitute social distancing regulations, this extra layer of precaution can be helpful for some, especially if you are looking after someone who is sick, or you are showing symptoms yourself.

When you wear a mask as protection against COVID-19 or to protect others, it is important to know how to clean and dispose of your face mask properly.

Can I reuse face masks?

  • Paper masks When it comes to single-use face masks, such as paper, they should be disposed of immediately after use (preferably in a plastic bag and closed bin) and replaced with a new one. If this isn't possible, leave the mask in a safe place for three to five days to allow any germs to die before reusing.
  • Cloth masks Masks that are made from cloth should be routinely washed after every use. Make sure you do not share masks with any other person in your family, even if you are washing them.

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

How to wash a face mask

A standard wash cycle of 60-90 degrees is recommended by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) when sanitising fabrics, however, to be safe, we suggest pre-treating face masks by hand before a regular wash for the most effective deep clean.

  1. Pre-wash To pre-wash, fill a bowl with hot water and soap. Add the face mask on its own and start hand washing. Follow our laundry tips for the most effective clean. Make sure to use protective washing up gloves when doing this.
  2. Washing Machine Once the mask has been properly pre-washed, put it in the washing machine. You can wash the mask with other items. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) bleach such as OMO Fresh Bleach serves as an extra margin of safety when washing items that could be infected. Be careful when using this to wash other items, as bleach can fade or discolour clothes.
  3. Dry Remove the mask and leave to dry in a safe place and only use once fully dry. A top tip is to use a tumble dryer on high heat to make sure the germs have been killed. If you do not have access to one, ironing the mask on high heat is a good extra measure. It is important to remove your face mask from the ears rather than touching the mask itself, as this is a way COVID-19 can spread to your hands. Always wash your hands before touching a mask, and after removing it, it's important to keep up personal hygiene practices to avoid the risk of infection. To ensure you don't forget anything, use a personal hygiene checklist.

You will need:

  • Large bowl / Sink
  • Bleach based laundry detergent
  • Washing up gloves
  • Soap
  • Water

Disclaimer: The information in this article is accurate at the time of publishing. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some guidance may have changed since publication. While Cleanipedia is trying to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using GOV ZA and the South African Department of Health.

Originally published