Face mask etiquette: How often should you change or clean? Best ones?
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Face masks have become standard accessories in the age of coronavirus.
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But as more and more of us take to the roads and skies, we’re getting lots of questions about how often to change those masks, how to clean them, the best ones to use, and other questions around face mask etiquette. Here’s some answers.
Related: TPG guide to face masks
How often should you wash your face mask?
The best place for all things health news is Healthline, the top source for health news. It’s owned by Red Ventures – the parent company of The Points Guy.
Dr. Elaine Hanh Le, M.D., Healthline Chief Medical Officer told TPG, “Ideally, you should wash your face mask after every wearing.”
That sentiment was echoed by Dr. Jake Deutsch, the Founder and Clinical Director of Cure Urgent Care and a CNN contributor. He said if you aren’t using disposable masks, you should wash your masks as often as possible. He told me that ideally patients should be using an N95 mask or disposable masks similar to what doctors use and throwing them away after each use.
Deutsch said, “Most people are using other types of masks that aren’t disposable.” He said, in that case, “try to sanitize it every time you use it.
What’s the best face mask?
Doctor Deutsch told me he thinks N95 masks are the best.
Deutsch said, “There’s three categories of masks, N95, basic surgical masks that people are using in between, and cloth masks. N95 is best, surgical is accepted as the safest and most accessible, and other options fall into the third category.”
Related: TPGs favorite face masks
In my recent travels, I’ve found the N95 masks seem to be the snuggest fit, and feel more effective though I will say they are much more uncomfortable over long periods. Still, scientists say they are the best. Indeed, a study from Duke University found N95 masks screen out 99.9% of all coronavirus droplets.
How should you clean your mask?
Cleaning masks is a key part of the process if you’re not using disposables.
Healthine’s Dr. Hanh Le told me:
“When washing the mask, use unscented laundry detergent that does not contain many dyes and fragrances as those can irritate your skin and nasal passages. Washing and drying the masks in high heat will also help kill germs. Then store all clean masks in a clean place to prevent contamination after washing and drying.”
Dr. Deutsch said, “Copy what would be done in clinical environment like a doctor’s office,” continuing, “Ideally you would change your mask each time you use it. Doctors switch between each use, and each patient gets a new mask.”
Related: The science behind face masks
But he also said if you are going to reuse the masks, be sure to clean them each time, “Ideally you would launder the mask or covering at a high temperature. Regular washing with hot water and soap would be sufficient.”
He also said to use some kind of sanitizer on the surface, “Thoroughly cover it. Be diligent just like you would with your hands.” Deutsche told me that if you are using alcohol to spray masks (or other surfaces) be sure to use a high enough concentration of alcohol – 60-70%. But he reminded readers to “be careful with chemicals with your face,” and not to put the mask on if its still covered in alcohol or sanitizer or wet.
And Dr. Hanh Le brought up another great point, “It’s a good idea to have multiple re-usable, washable face masks that you can rotate through. Who wants to do laundry every day?”
Other tips on face masks?
Doctor Deutsch has some hand tips on the Instagram page for his Care Urgent Care clinics including to wash your hands thoroughly before touching the mask, check for tears or holes and always wear the mask with the colored side facing away from your mouth.
Conclusion on face masks
Incredibly, there is still no FAA mandate on face masks, though most major airlines have instituted their own mask requirements. In fact, airlines have banned nearly 900 people for not wearing masks.
Coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, and TPG encourages everyone to mask up especially if you are taking to the skies so we can get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
Featured image by The Points Guy.
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