Wash your masks: How to clean a cloth face covering

Wash your masks: How to clean a cloth face covering
The CDC recommends the use of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Image via TwoPointsCouture/Flickr)

What do Costco, Home Depot, Petco, McDonald’s and Whole Foods have in common?

All the retailers are among the dozens of big businesses across the U.S. that require customers to wear face coverings in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

At this point, many people have multiple masks that they swap out while venturing out of their homes, but regardless of the number, it’s important to keep your masks clean and yourself safe.

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One way to do that is to regularly clean them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing face coverings in a standard washing machine or by hand.

Masks can be washed with regular laundry and detergent on a warm water setting.

To be extra careful with delicately made or handmade masks, consider putting them in mesh laundry bags like this one before dropping them in the washing machine.

Masks can also be washed by hand with a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water or 4 teaspoons of household bleach per quart of room temperature water.

The CDC suggests letting masks soak in the solution for 5 minutes before rinsing with cool or room temperature water.

Per the CDC: Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection. Some bleach products, such as those designed for safe use on colored clothing, may not be suitable for disinfection. Ensure the bleach product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.

Also remember that standard bleach will change the color of fabrics as it strips color.

Masks can be dried in a standard dryer or air drier. The CDC recommends drying masks using a machines highest heat setting or in direct sunlight.

For those with N95 masks, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently discovered that respirator masks can be cleaned in slow cookers like Instant Pots and Crock Pots.