The Latest Face Mask Rules and How Often to Wash Them

Wearing a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic has become a daily practice. Here's what the Government of Canada and the CDC has to say about face masks and how often you should be washing them.

A lot has changed in your life after COVID-19. For one thing, you’re now a lot more knowledgeable about terms like social distancing and learning how to make a face mask. But once you’ve made your own face mask or bought your own reusable face mask, how long can you wear your face mask between washings? And how do you properly wash a DIY face mask, anyway?

Why wear a face mask?

At the beginning of the pandemic, wearing a face mask wasn’t a requirement when walking around outside or completing essential errands. However, times have changed, and now the Government of Canada recommends wearing a face mask in the community when it is not possible “to maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others.” This includes crowded public settings, such as stores, shopping areas, and public transportation.

How should a face mask fit?

The Government of Canada says non-face masks should:

  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • maintain their shape after washing and drying
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirt
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
  • be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping

How often should you wash your face mask?

The novel coronavirus lasts on surfaces longer than you may think, and it’s important that the general public wears face masks and knows how to properly take care of them. There’s a clear difference between surgical masks and N95 respirators, which are both different from the regular cloth face masks you may wear. For this article, we’re talking about cloth face masks you would wear every day.

But how often should you wash cloth face masks between wears? The CDC recommends washing your facemask routinely, “depending on the frequency of use.” Dr. Daniel Griffin, a member of the Division of Infectious Diseases and an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University, tells NPR that you should think of face masks like underwear, and that face masks should be washed after each time you wear it.

“You don’t take this dirty mask off, put it in your purse and then stick it back on your face,” Griffin tells NPR. “It’s something that once you put on, is potentially either touching your coughs, sneezes or the spray of your speech or protecting you from the coughs, spray, speech of other people. And now it’s dirty. It needs to basically be either discarded or washed.”

How to disinfect your face mask

The World Health Organization (WHO) shows you in a YouTube video how you can properly remove your cloth face mask. You carefully remove the elastic bands from behind your ears and avoid touching the front of the face mask. Once you’ve removed the face mask without touching the front, the CDC recommends cleaning it in a washing machine. You can also disinfect your DIY face mask by handwashing it in the kitchen sink or placing it in the oven.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest