Mask Laundering & Sterilizing Necessities: An 8 Min Guide.
The global predicament has drastically altered our existence, and a prime example is the ubiquitous presence of masks. Be it outdoors or indoors, masks have integrated into our daily wardrobe. Until the world regains stability, mask-wearing remains indispensable. Consequently, cleaning our reusable face shields after each use is crucial.

Before diving into mask-maintenance, let’s recap some key safety pointers during this uncertain period. Familiarity doesn’t negate the gravity of these precautions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and other health agencies, here’s the lowdown on masks’ efficacy in combating disease:

Primarily, COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, singing, talking, or breathing. Mask-wearing mitigates virus transmission.

Individuals above the age of two must don masks in public spaces and around those beyond their household. Masks don’t replace social distancing or handwashing. Refrain from touching your mask while wearing it. Give your hands a 20-second soap scrub before and after handling your mask.

Combining masks with distancing and handwashing provides the strongest defense against COVID-19. Learn how to clean your masks for optimal protection.

So, when should you wash and disinfect your reusable masks?
Wash and sanitize them upon touching them after handwashing. If it seems excessive, consider the alternatives. Discover the best masks, appropriate usage, and how to maintain cleanliness.

Mask-washing Mastery:
If only we had adequate surgical masks for everyone, right? Reality is, front-line workers are barely scraping by. Non-essential individuals should leave medical-grade masks for healthcare employees with increased exposure risk.

One-time-use masks like N95 and disposable surgical masks were designed for single wear. However, due to shortages, some healthcare facilities are using UVC germicidal irradiation or other disinfection methods for restoring single-use masks. Can we clean surgical masks at home?

No, unless germicidal irradiation is readily available. Save medical-grade masks for healthcare providers, as they’re in dire need of them. Opt for easy-to-wash and disinfect masks, readily available and tailored for daily use. Lack of high-tech face protection doesn’t automatically equal greater COVID-19 vulnerability. The ideal face covering choice, then?

The Ideal & Least Effective Non-Medical Masks:
While over-the-counter masks won’t give you surgical protection, their effectiveness rests on the mask’s structure and fit. The silver lining is that most cloth masks can be cleaned, disinfected, and reused. Let’s explore the ones to wear and avoid:

Avoid gaiters, bandanas, and similar fashion items. Though stylish, they lack the same defenses against COVID-19. An effective mask consists of a double-layered, washable, breathable fabric that prevents infected droplets from spreading. Bandana material is often too thin and leaves the bottom open despite doubling. Gaiters, scarves, and mufflers utilize flexible, knit fabric, rendering them ineffective at capturing droplets with their loose weave.

Avoid one-way valve face masks. While they provide easier breathing and moisture reduction, the valves release unfiltered, potentially infected droplets.

Avoid disposable surgical masks. They’re not reusable or washable, and they should be reserved for healthcare staff.

Wear two-ply face masks. They typically have elastic loops and wire inserts for nose contouring. A double-layered covering lessens droplet spread when coughing or sneezing, and is sometimes more effective than disposable surgical masks.

Wear three-ply face masks. They offer the best non-medical protection against virus transmission. These masks can be washed and reused, providing long-term protection with the proper fit.

Ensure your mask covers your nose and mouth, extends as close to your ears as possible, and leaves no gaps. Remember, a comfortable mask maximizes the likelihood of consistent usage.

Cloth Mask-washing How-To:
Frequent mask-washing is the goal. Stick to a rotation of clean face masks; inadequate washing negates their purpose. Masks accumulate harmful germs upon touching, wearing in close quarters, or exposing them to contaminants. To avoid breathing in bacteria, viruses, or fungi, keep masks clean.

Collect your removable parts like filters and detachable ear bands, deposit the masks into mesh laundry bags, then use the hottest water temperature (above 140℉), preferably a sanitizing wash cycle. Forgo chemical-laden detergents and bleaches in favor of environmentally responsible hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide has antimicrobial properties and is more effective than white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and acetic acid. Additionally, it doubles as a mild bleaching agent that offers a greener solution than chlorine bleach. It breaks down into water and oxygen when exposed to sunlight. Stick to a three-percent hydrogen peroxide solution.

Add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer or as the washer fills. Though safe for various colors when mixed with water, it can remove color on dry fabric. When hand-washing masks, create a cleaning solution of five tablespoons per gallon of hot water. Soak masks for at least five minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

Though most dryers don’t reach high enough temperatures for disinfection, you can help by using disinfectant dryer sheets or sanitizers. Alternatively, sun-dry the masks. Ultraviolet radiation combats influenza viruses and other pathogens, while sunlight kills bacteria.

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