Do’s and Don'ts of Cleaning and Replacing Fabric Face Masks


None of us imagined face masks would be an essential part of our daily lives. And since it appears they'll be a staple in our daily lives for the foreseeable future, we want to help you make the most of your reusable mask. Today, we're going to discuss the dos and don'ts of cleaning and replacing your fabric face mask – how to clean it, how often to clean it, and when you should replace it.

The Center for Disease Control still asserts that “masks are a critical step to help prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19.”

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Thankfully, we now have plenty of options and styles of face masks to choose from. We can match our masks to our outfits, we can match them to varying occasions. As their presence is no longer strange, neither is indulging in fashionable masks!

Investing in aesthetically pleasing masks now brings us to a multitude of questions. You may be wondering about the efficacy of non-medical masks or perhaps asking yourself how often you should clean a fabric mask, or how to clean fabric masks. It’s also important to consider how often you should outright replace a fabric mask. We’ve got the answers!

How to handle your mask

First, as we know, masks work to protect both the wearer and those around them in public areas. That’s why it’s critical to ensure, if your mask is non-medical, that it’s made of tightly-woven fabric and multi-layered, as per the CDC’s recommendation.

You should be mindful of touching your mask. Avoid touching it at all costs and if you do, do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.

As masks prevent COVID-19 particles from reaching your mouth, some airborne particles do come in contact with your mask, meaning you should exercise serious caution when handling face masks, so as to avoid getting COVID-19 particles on your hands and risk transferring them to yourself or someone else.

Keep hand sanitizer handy to clean your hands after handling your mask. Also, although it may be tempting, like a pair of sunglasses, to pull your mask up over your forehead, or allow it to hang around your neck, the Center for Disease Control advises against these kinds of habitual actions. Be as careful as possible with your mask – it’s there to protect you.

When you remove your mask, try to touch only the corners and fold the mask inward, protecting the side that comes in contact with your mouth. It’s a good idea to keep a clean mask on hand (or several) so you can switch out masks easily on the go. Keep a paper bag on hand to hold the dirty mask until it can be put in the wash.

How to wash you fabric face mask

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So, how do you wash a fabric face mask? Cleaning your face mask is just as important as wearing one.

Whether you’re hand washing your mask or using a machine, the rules aren’t all too different from washing any other laundry. In a washing machine, your mask can be put with your regular laundry loads, as long as the load will be washed in hot water (consider doing a load of masks, towels, sheets, etc).

Use detergent, maybe something lightly scented so as to avoid breathing in overwhelming smells when wearing your mask. Dish soap may be a good choice if you’re particularly sensitive to smells.

Hand-washing your face mask

To hand-wash, use hot tap water, and soap. You may consider soaking your mask in warm or hot water for five minutes prior to washing to aid in the germ-killing process. After you wash your laundry, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Drying your face mask

To dry your face masks, use warm to hot settings in your dryer or, if you don’t have access to a dryer, hang the masks in direct sunlight. If you don’t have access to direct sunlight, lay them flat until they’re dry completely.

Washing silk face masks

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Certain masks should, however, be handled differently. Silk masks, for instance, should be hand washed. It’s a good idea to use a soap that’s meant for silk and wash gently with warm, not hot water. Let the mask soak in warm water for up to 10 minutes then hang it to air dry.

Washing face masks made of other fabrics

Other materials, such as linen and cotton, don’t require such specific care. If your mask is made of linen or cotton, it’s safe to proceed as if you were washing your underwear. That includes choosing a high enough temperature.

The World Health Organization recommends using water 150-165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill Coronavirus particles. To avoid burning yourself when handwashing, let your mask soak in the hot water for five minutes, then wash it with warm water.

How to store your fabric face masks

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Between uses, store your mask in a cool, dry place. Consider carrying a small paper or plastic sealable bag in which to store your mask between uses while you’re out and about.

How often should you wash your fabric face mask?

So, that brings us to the key question; how often should you wash a fabric face mask? The Center for Disease Control recommends you wash your mask when it gets dirty, or, at least once daily. When you return home after being in public spaces, immediately put your mask in the washing machine or in a plastic bag with your laundry for hand washing.

If your mask gets wet, you should remove it, replace it, and wash it at the next possible opportunity.

Masks can get wet from your breath, snow, rain, or common accidents. Unfortunately, a wet mask is not as effective as the wetness can affect the shape and fit of the mask, pulling the corners away from your face, risking COVID-19 particles sneaking their way passed your protective barrier! But that’s not the only risk. If you let moisture linger in your mask, you’re increasing the chances of bacteria and mold growth.

How often should you replace your fabric face mask?

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Finally, how often should you replace a fabric face mask? There’s no specific recommended timeline but it depends on the quality of your mask and the aggressiveness of your washing machine.

The fabric of your mask comes into play as well. For instance, linen and silk may not be as sturdy as cotton in the long run.

Repeated washing eventually lessens the effectiveness of cloth masks as they become more threadbare. Christopher Sulmonte at John Hopkins Medical says to think of your mask like a pair of underwear. If they start to become tattered, it’s time to replace them.

Another good tip is to use the light test. If you hold your mask up to the light and can see through it, it’s time to replace it. Cold weather can help too: if your breath travels through your mask more than an inch or so, it’s time for a new mask.

Bottom line about fabric face masks

Ultimately, your choice of mask comes down to your unique taste and style and the maintenance you’re willing to put in.

Again, because masks are incredibly important to our health, it’s not outrageous to imagine dedicating a good amount of time to caring for them. So feel free to go for the bright silks and the beautiful linen designs if you please.

Grab one of our VS Fashion Masks here to suit all your needs.