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Wash and Disinfect Face Masks
Masks help slow the spread of COVID-19 along with other preventive actions and social distancing. Masks should be washed regularly.
It is important to always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask.
Broadly, there are 3 different types of masks usable for infection control:
- Surgical Masks
- N95 Type Respirator Masks
- Fabric Masks
In professional healthcare settings, these masks are generally treated as single-use disposable items. There is no published literature regarding the decontamination processes of used surgical face masks.
N95 Type Respirator Masks
Traditionally, these types of masks have been considered to be single-use. However, due to the shortage of masks because of the COVID outbreak, several decontamination processes have been identified.
- Common methods such as high-temperature steam sterilization, alcohol washing, and bleach washing have been shown to degrade these types of respirator masks.
- Disinfection through warm humid heat and UVGI was found to be effective at inactivating the H1N1 influenza virus and caused the least degradation of mask integrity.
- The use of hydrogen peroxide vapor (HPV) was found to maintain mask integrity while achieving sterilization.
Fabric masks are widely used among the public during this COVID outbreak. Fabric masks combine two layers of 600-thread-count cotton with another material like silk, chiffon, or flannel. They filtered more than 80 percent of small particles and more than 90 percent of larger particles.
How to clean
- You can include your mask with your regular laundry.
- Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask.
Washing by hand
Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection. Some bleach products, such as those designed for safe use on colored clothing, may not be suitable for disinfection.
- Use bleach containing 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use a bleach product if the percentage is not in this range or is not specified.
- Ensure the bleach product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
- Ensure adequate ventilation.
Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) of 5.25%–8.25% bleach per gallon of room temperature water or
- 4 teaspoons of 5.25%–8.25% bleach per quart of room temperature water
Soak the mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
Discard the bleach solution down the drain and rinse the mask thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.
Make sure to completely dry the mask after washing.
How to dry
Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry.
Illustration clothes in the dryer
Lay flat and allow to completely dry. If possible, place the mask in direct sunlight.
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