Several studies have found airborne transmission, via breathing, talking, coughing, and sneezing, to be the dominant route for viral spread. In response, face masks were first recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2020 and later mandated in June.
While many Americans are following CDC, state, and local guidance for wearing cloth face masks, some may be wondering whether the masks they wear daily are still as effective and when to replace them.
When to Replace A Face Mask or Covering
According to Christopher Sulmonte, Project Administrator for the Biocontainment Unit at John Hopkins Medical, there is not an exact timeline for how long you can use a cloth face mask before it needs to be replaced. The original quality of your face mask and harshness of your washing machine, however, play vital roles in the longevity and quality of your face mask. To see if your mask needs to be replaced, you can:
- Hold your mask up to a light to check for visible fading or spots that you can see through
- Inspect your mask for any holes
- Check the fit of your mask to ensure it still fits snugly over your nose and mouth
- If you live in a colder climate, see if your breath travels more than an inch through the mask
If your mask shows signs of any of the above, it is time to purchase a replacement.
Tip for Cleaning Your Mask or Covering
The CDC recommends that you wash your face mask or covering after each wear. Additionally, it is recommended to have more than one mask on you. You can use the following methods for washing and drying your masks:
- Using a washing machine — You can include your mask(s) with your regular laundry detergent.
- Washing by hand — Put your mask in a bowl or a bin. Use warm tap water, and detergent or soap to wash the mask, rinsing thoroughly to remove detergent or soap.
- Use your dryer or air dry — Be sure to check the fabric tags of your mask(s) before using the dryer. In some cases, to preserve the fit and fabric of your masks, you may need to air dry them.
Keep in mind that wearing a mask when out in public can help you protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and contribute to stopping the spread.
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