How to keep facemask clean and effective: tips from experts


DUBAI – With the wearing of face masks now mandatory across the UAE and disposable masks in short supply, it is important to know how to keep your reusable facemask clean in order to maximize its effectiveness.

“Wearing facemasks is the new norm to slow the spread of viruses, particularly Covid-19, but people must know how to use and clean them properly,” said Justine Jabonero Contento of GAMÂ Design Studio, makers of custom washable facemasks.

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Contento, a nurse turned entrepreneur, reiterated the importance of covering your face in public. “Wearing a mask protects others if you are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, and it also protects you from those who are infected,” she told “Never touch your facemask while wearing it because it might already have contaminants,” she warned.

Damodaran Sivakumar, Head of Production at laundry service provider 5àsec UAE, says following the dos and don’ts of maintaining facemask hygiene is very important.

“Using the same cloth mask daily without cleaning it will not shield you from the virus and may actually have the opposite effect,” Sivakumar said.

Here are their six key tips for maintaining the effectiveness of your fabric facemasks:

How often do you need to wash your fabric facemask?

Your facemask should be washed regularly. The virus may stay active on fabric for a long period of time, which makes it absolutely necessary to wash your facemask at least once a day. If you suspect that someone you have been in close contact with is infected, you should put the mask to wash immediately and use a fresh one, says Sivakumar. Apart from the virus, the masks also tend to collect any sweat, oil or makeup from skin, which may also affect your health.

What fabric is suitable for a facemask?

GAMÂ Design Studio recommends using a three-layer facemask with a combination of water-repellant fabric for the outside and soft, thin Neoprene fabric for the inner layer. These materials are effective in filtering out the virus as well as blocking any pathogens from entering. The lining must also be absorbent and soft. With the strict protocol of wearing the facemask while on the move, it is essential to be comfortable with your facemask and the fabric provides the right amount of breathability.

How should you handle your facemask after use?

Touching just one side of the garter of the facemask, take off your mask carefully and then place it in a basin with soap and water, says Contento. Let the mask soak while you are taking a shower as soon as you arrive home. This way, you are allowing the virus to decay. Do not let the mask come into contact with any other family member.

How can you disinfect cloth masks?

A machine wash at a high temperature with quality detergents is good enough to kill the virus. However, if you want to avoid running a machine load just for a single mask, you can also toss in your clothing items that you wore to step-out as well, says Sivakumar.

If you prefer to handwash your mask, let it soak in soap and water first or in hot water for at least 10 minutes. “A common hack is to hand wash it by singing Happy Birthday twice to make sure it is clean by 99.9 percent,” says Contento. Rinsing it thoroughly will also help to remove all the pathogens. Avoid using bleach completely as the constant smell can cause nausea and headaches.

What is the appropriate temperature to wash a facemask?

Viruses cannot withstand high temperatures, therefore, washing face masks at a temperature of more than 60 degrees help disinfect the mask. Since fabrics with dark colors fade after a couple of washed at high temperatures, it is advisable to make or buy the fabric mask in lighter shades, says Sivakumar.

How should a facemask be dried?

After washing your mask, it is best to dry it at a high temperature since heat also sanitizes the mask. For masks with a plastic filter and valve, you will need to be extra careful and air-dry or sun-dry them. A hairdryer can also be used as an easy and effective dryer, says Sivakumar. Sunlight is another excellent natural sanitizing agent. Since the starting temperature of an average household iron is 140 degrees Celsius, ironing the mask post-drying will provide an added measure to ensure that the virus is completely eliminated. PIA/Expat Media


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