The circuit breaker period may be over, but we’ll probably still be wearing face masks for a long time to come. Reusable face masks are also becoming more of a norm, as they . We all know the importance of wearing masks, as they effectively help prevent the spread of Covid-19. A new study from Cambridge and Greenwich universities suggests that wearing face masks in public 100 per cent of the time (and not only when symptoms appear) greatly reduces transmission of the disease.

So whether you’re making your own cloth mask or simply using the government-issued ones, it’s important to keep your mask clean each time you use them.

Reusable mask care tips

For one, remember to wash your reusable mask before putting them on, just as how you would with your newly-bought clothes

This helps to remove any harsh chemicals and colour dyes that may cause skin irritation, and you don’t know for sure how many hands have touched the mask during the manufacturing process. 

But how do you wash it after every use? What soap should you use? We asked Lee Shu Lay, Infection Control Manager at Thomson Medical Centre, for tips.

Credit: Chumphol Pholruck/Canva

What type of soap should we use when washing our masks? Should we even use soap?

We should use mild detergent / soap. Baby soap is a good choice to keep your mask in better condition.

Can we wash our masks in the laundry, along with our other clothes?

Yes, there’s no issue, but your mask may potentially get stained from other coloured items in the laundry.

When hand-washing the masks, is there any specific way we should wash it?

Hand-wash the mask normally as you would do with any other garment. However, when drying the mask you may wish to squeeze the water out by pressing and do not wring. This will help the mask retain its shape and extend its use.

Should we soak it in water for a period of time?

We should soak the reusable mask with half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) dissolved in hot water (that is higher than 65 C) for half an hour before washing. Sodium bicarbonate is a mild disinfectant as well as a deodorant.

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Can we dry our masks in the dryer, or should we air-dry it?

Yes, you may wish to use a dryer. But if you want to extend the life of your mask, it is best to air-dry under indirect sunlight as tumble drying on high heat may spoil the mask’s fabric.

Other things to note:

While we know that the coronavirus can remain active on stainless steel for up to three days, and up to 24 hours on cardboards, there is still no study on how long the virus can live on clothing and fabrics.

However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that clothes that have been worn outdoors should be washed immediately, “using the warmest appropriate water setting” according to the clothes manufacturer’s instructions and it should dry completely.

It also notes that flu viruses can be killed with temperatures above 75 degrees, along with the use of common household cleaning products like detergents. 

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Text: Sally Manik/CLEO, Melissa Goh/Asia One, and Elizabeth Liew

This post was updated on June 18, 2020.