This is the Correct Way to Clean a Mask

In pandemic times, proper cleaning of your mask is essential to keep it free of infectious material. If you use a reusable cloth, we explain what is the best way to clean it, and thus keep it free of germs, viruses and bacteria.

Since Wednesday May 20 in USA, the use of masks for over six years of age is mandatory in closed spaces or outdoors, as long as it is not possible to keep the recommended two meters of safety distance.

As explained by the General Council of the College of Pharmacists in a technical report about COVID-19 and the use of masks, there are two main types of these elements: surgical masks and filtering (also called self-filtering, and which cover FFP1, FFP2 or FFP3). Surgical ones protect the rest of the people more than the wearer, while the filters protect the user from inhaling environmental contaminants such as pathogens or chemicals.

But other than these, there is a new category authorized by the Government since April: hygienic or barrier masks, among which are cloth ones, which can be manufactured at home. It is important to wash your hands with soap and water or rub them with a hydroalcoholic solution before handling the mask, position it properly on the face, at the level of the nose, check that it covers the chin and do not touch it with your hands without washing.

If you use cloth facial mask in public environments, it is essential that you clean it properly, since like any existing garment, hygienic masks get dirty, absorb sweat and germs, and must be washed properly.

According to National Geographic, the best way to clean a cloth face mask is to take the same approach as other clothes: throw it in the washing machine. Laundry detergent is effective against coronavirus because the pathogen is enclosed in a layer of lipids and oily proteins. Detergents and hand soaps contain surfactants, which reduce the surface tension of the fat layer.

The surfactant molecule is attracted to oil and fat at one end and water at the other. The oil-disrupting finish breaks the coronavirus envelope. Tiny surfactant pods called micelles trap and wash away debris. It is this activity and not the temperature of the water that kills the virus, although the use of a higher temperature when drying it - for example, using the steam iron or putting it in the micro for a few seconds - can also destroy the most microorganisms that could be persistent.

The way to remove the cloth mask from your face when you get home and take it off is also especially important. Your hands should be clean, and not touch the fabric, but use the rubbers behind the ears to avoid contaminating the mask and your face with any pathogen that may be in your hands.

Medical grade masks are more difficult as they are designed to be used only once and cannot withstand a wash cycle. If you have an N95 or paper mask, you can set it aside for several days, at which point the virus is likely to become inactive. At the moment, there is no complete certainty of how long the coronavirus can persist on surfaces, and a mask may collect particles over time, increasing the viral load.

And what about the rest of your clothes? As we explain more fully in this article, experts say you don't have to worry as much about taking it off as soon as you get home. The coronavirus likes moisture and dries quickly on fabrics. The main routes of infection of COVID-19 are transmission by contact or respiratory droplets expelled by people infected by coughing or sneezing.

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