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ICYDK, Here’s How to Clean Your Cloth Face Mask

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Hi, welcome to 2020, it’s a mess here. You’ve probably heard that the Centers for Disease Control now recommends wearing a cloth mask or face covering in public. They’re especially important in places like the grocery store or pharmacy, where it’s harder to stay 6 feet away from people.

Here’s how to clean your cloth face mask so that it (and you) stays germ-free.

Step 1: Remove your mask *very* carefully and put it in a safe place
Step 2: Get sudsy

Step 1: Remove your mask *very* carefully and put it in a safe place
“When you take off the mask, you want to be very careful not to touch your eyes, your nose, or your mouth because [the virus] could have gotten on the outside of your mask,” explains Dr. Boucher. Yikes.

And once you remove it, make sure you put it somewhere for safekeeping until you can wash it. You don’t want your family members to touch it or accidentally mistake it for a clean one, advise Kirsten Koehler, PhD, an associate professor of environmental health and engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Ana María Rule, PhD, an assistant professor of environmental health and engineering at the same institution.

Then, wash 👏 your 👏 hands 👏. You should wash your hands every time you touch your mask (including when you take it off), say Dr. Koehler and Dr. Rule. Remember to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while you do it, plz.

Step 2: Get sudsy
When it comes to cleaning your mask, your best bet is “good old soap and water,” emphasizes Dr. Boucher. “The data that I’ve seen on soap and water are really impressive. Regular old soap dissolves the virus.” In other words, you don’t need anything besides hand soap, dish soap, or laundry detergent. No fancy products or boiling water required. And you definitely don’t need to use anything toxic, she says.

The easiest way to clean your mask? Throw that sucker in the washing machine, all three of our experts say. Make sure you put in some detergent (it doesn’t matter what kind) and don’t worry about the machine’s settings. It won’t make a difference. Oh, and don’t be afraid to put your clothes in the same load—they’ll be totally fine. “The virus itself doesn’t love textiles,” explains Dr. Boucher. Phew. Throw it in the dryer afterward and boom, you’re good to go.

If it isn’t laundry day (or you don’t feel like making the trek to the laundry room), you can also wash your mask by hand. Bring it over to the sink, pour on some soap, and wash it for at least 20 seconds just as if you were washing your hands, say Dr. Koehler and Dr. Rule. “Be sure to get the soap all over the mask and rub it to be sure you got soap throughout and it is clean,” they explain. Then rinse it and leave it somewhere warm to dry till you’re ready to use it again.
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