How often Should I wash my Cloth Mask?

Let’s talk about masks. I know that you know about their efficacy in helping prevent the spread of COVID 19 and the whole idea of “I protect you, you protect me”. 

But there hasn’t really been much of a conversation about washing masks and filters. So let’s take a little look at that, shall we?

How often should I wash my cloth mask?

The answer is simple: After every use. 

The purpose of wearing a mask is to prevent the virus from spreading, right? So, if there are virus particles on yours, wearing it—unwashed—completely defeats its purpose. So wash your mask daily to avoid buildup of bacteria on the cloth. 

Some sources will tell you that you should use hot water and detergent to wash your mask but the truth is, the coronavirus can be broken down with soap and water, no matter the temperature of the water. 

Need more reasons not to use hot water? Heat shrinks some natural fabrics, like cotton, and it can also speed up the wear of your mask, especially if it’s made of synthetic material.

What about filters?

When it comes to filters used in three-layer masks, you’ll need to wash these often as well, for the same reasons. If you’re using a filter made of cotton, polyester, nylon or silk, follow the same instructions as you would for your mask. However, if you’re using polypropylene fabric as your filter, you’ll want to add another step to your routine. 

If you haven’t heard, non-woven polypropylene filters have risen to the top of the list of effective filters mainly because they hold an electrostatic charge. May Chu, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health, explained that this “static cling” had the ability to trap incoming and outgoing droplets. 

BUT, it's important to note that when you wash polypropylene, it loses its electrostatic charge. To recharge the fabric—and its effectiveness—make sure you iron it!

What’s the science behind using detergents to kill the virus?

According to Rachel Graham, a virologist at the University of North Carolina, COVID-19 is considered an “enveloped” virus meaning that it has a barrier made up of oily lipids and proteins held together by surface tension. Laundry detergents are made up of surfactants, substances which have the power to bust up surface tension. More specifically, a surfactant molecule has one end that’s attracted to oil and grease; the other is attracted to water. The oil-loving end of the molecule wedges itself into the coronavirus’ envelope and breaks it apart. The rest gets washed away in the water. Laundry detergent for the win!

What about maskne?

Maskne is real, yo. In fact since all our mask-wearing started, dermatologists have reported a sharp uptick in acne mechanica, the kind of skin irritations triggered by heat, friction, and pressure against the skin.  

The skin on the face is pretty sensitive so it only makes sense that wearing a mask all the time would lead to breakouts. 

But there are a few ways to help prevent maskne. 

    1. Wash your face more often. Part of the answer for clear skin is getting rid of excess oils and dead skins that can clog your pores.
    2. Use a moisturizer. Applying a moisturizer after you wash your face adds a protective layer that can reduce dryness and friction.
    3. Use an unscented detergent. Since harsh chemicals and fragrances in your detergent can cause a skin reaction, you should avoid them. Opt instead for a planet and face friendly option like etee’s unscented concentrated laundry detergent.

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So there you have it, washing your planet-friendly cloth masks and filters clean not only helps reduce the spread of COVID but also keeps your face free from maskne! 

Keep it clean, kids,

Chantal

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