700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

How to Care for Face Masks

Feb 23, 2021
face masks drying outside

Even as COVID-19 vaccines are distributed and administered, masks will need to be worn in public spaces as long as the risk of transmission remains high. Knowing how to take care of your face masks is vital in order to ensure they provide the best protection from COVID-19 and other germs and helps them last longer.

A clean mask should be worn anytime you’re in an indoor location that isn’t where you live, when outdoors an unable to maintain a distance of six feet or more from people who are not members of your household, and when using public transportation. Note that when visiting a medical facility, you may be asked to wear a medical mask rather than a cloth mask from home.

When you leave your house and must don (put on) a mask, keep it on until your outing is complete. Remove your mask when away from others. Bring your mask inside the house to be cleaned.

Doffing (taking off) a mask should be done as follows:

  1. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Don’t touch your face or the front of the mask.
  3. Remove your mask with care by untying the ties (bottom ones first, then the top) or pulling the ear loops off of your ears.
  4. Disposable face masks should be discarded after use. Cloth face masks may be reused if cleaned and stored properly between uses.
  5. Clean your hands again after removing your mask.

If your cloth mask is still clean and dry, you can store it in a paper or mesh fabric bag temporarily to keep it clean and use it later that day. Make sure to wear the mask with the same side facing out when reusing, and then launder as soon as possible.

Cloth masks must be washed when dirty or at least daily. Masks made of cotton or other fabrics can be washed with hot water in the washing machine. After laundering, dry them in the dryer with high heat or hang them, preferably in direct sunlight, until completely dry. You can also hand wash cloth masks with hot, soapy water. Scrub the mask for at least 20 seconds (the same amount of time we wash our hands) and then tumble dry them with high heat. Disposable surgical masks cannot be laundered and should be thrown away after use.

Learn more about mask care from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) CDC site.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.