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It feels like a whole new world since the novel coronavirus became a pandemic. For many people across the globe, face masks are now part of their wardrobe. However, many of us still don’t understand reusable face mask fundamentals, like how often you can use them between washings.

Does it matter? According to healthcare experts, it does. Yet answering that question requires understanding a bit more information first.

We’ve compiled some common questions about reusable mask usage to help you determine this and other face mask best practices, followed by thoughts and guidance from healthcare professionals working to educate the public about virus protection.

4. What Difference Does Mask Material Make?

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Currently, most people who aren’t on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are advised to wear cloth masks. A large percentage of those masks are handmade. Before you buy your own handmade face mask for COVID-19 protection, take the advice of Dr. Scott Segal, M.D.

As part of the research team at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Segal and his colleagues determined that homemade mask effectiveness has a lot to do with how it’s made.

Single layer cloth masks performed poorly at protecting from virus transmission. Double layer masks made of lightweight cotton also didn’t make the grade.

Testing revealed the best homemade face mask has two very important elements: it has a double layer of cloth and is made of tight-weave fabric. Masks made from fabrics with at least 180-thread count provided the best protection.

If you’re using a reusable face mask made from a single layer lightweight fabric, don’t just wash it. Replace it with a double layer mask of thicker material.

3. How Often Should You Wash a Reusable Face Mask?

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Now that you know what kind of cloth face mask you should be wearing, here’s some advice about how to use it.

The Mayo Clinic recommends washing your reusable face mask after every day that you use it. If you wear it daily, wash it daily. Better yet, purchase extra reusable face masks and add them to your rotation.

Be sure to store your used face masks properly until they can be washed. The Mayo Clinic suggests folding your used mask in half, with the contaminated side of the mask pressed together. Storing the used mask in a paper bag is also suggested, followed by thoroughly washing your hands.

Related: 13 Coronavirus Products Not to Waste Your Money On

2. How Do You Properly Wash a Reusable Face Mask?

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides guidelines for either machine or hand washing cloth face masks.

For machine washing, wash your mask as you would (and with) your regular laundry. It’s fine to use your regular laundry detergent. Determine the water temperature based on the needs of the other clothes you’re also washing, unless your reusable face mask is hot pink in a load of white towels. In other words, follow regular laundry washing guidelines as you would with clothes and linens.

For hand washing, the CDC recommends using a solution of 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. The water should be at room temperature. Soak the face mask for about 5 minutes, then thoroughly rinse it with room temperature or cool water.

Make sure your face mask is completely dry before using it again. Either machine dry it on high heat, or lay flat to air dry in a warm area.

1. How Do I Know If the Mask Is Protecting Me?

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If you’ve chosen a cloth face mask made properly and you’re washing it after every use, it should be helping protect you from coronavirus spread. That said, make sure to check that it fits right and you’re wearing it properly.

The CDC recommends a face mask that covers both your mouth and your nose. This is crucial, as the mask is there to protect you from inhaling or ingesting respiratory droplets of the virus.

The mask should fit snugly and comfortably against your face, while still allowing you to breathe. It should also be tucked under your chin for better coverage.

Now that your reusable face mask is made well, freshly washed, and fits correctly, you can enhance your virus protection by practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and sheltering at home when possible.

Related: Best Way to Store Your Face Mask


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