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How to Clean a Cloth Face Mask to Stay Safe and Healthy

This summer’s must-have accessory isn’t a new pair of sunglasses or the latest sneakers — it’s a face mask. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone wear a face mask whenever they’re out in public, especially when social distancing isn’t possible. There’s plenty of reasons to sport a cloth one instead of a disposable one. First, disposable masks are in short supply and should be saved for first responders and those who need them. Second, reusable cloth masks are much better for the planet. Finally, you can have a lot more fun buying a cloth mask that matches your personality. But before you get to shopping, it’s crucial to know how to clean a cloth face mask correctly.

Cloth face mask cleaning basics

Don’t worry — cleaning a cloth face mask is an easy DIY job. There’s no need to go to the dry cleaners. Unlike disposable masks, cloth masks can be washed and worn as many times as you’d like, until they’re visibly fraying or no longer hug and fit your face properly. Keep in mind that disposable masks made from non-woven fibers, such as KN95 and N95 masks, can’t be cleaned at home and can only be worn a maximum of five times, or even fewer if they’ve been damaged or are dirty, according to the CDC.

To make cloth masks as effective as possible, clean them after every wear. Ensure that’s possible by having a few at home so that they can be rotated. Cloth masks can be tossed in the washing machine or washed by hand. If you opt for the latter, take caution by wearing disposable gloves and don’t put the masks near your face.

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How to clean a cloth face mask

Here are step-by-step instructions for how to clean a cloth face mask:

Step 1:

For masks that have a pocket for a removable non-woven filter, make sure to always remove the filter before washing the face mask. If you’ve been wearing a DIY mask, such as a bandana or scarf with elastic ear bands, be sure to remove detachable elastic ear bands.

Step 2:

Most masks have straps or bands to keep them in place and those can easily get tangled in the machine or stuck on other clothes. Use a mesh laundry bag to keep them separate and safe. You can use it in the dryer, too.

Step 3:

You don’t want your red mask turning all your white T-shirts pink. The same laundry rules apply, so sort the masks by colors and keep them in the right loads.

Step 4:

To kill germs, masks should always be washed in hot water, so set your washing machine to hot on a regular cycle. If you’re washing your masks by hand, fill your sink up with hot water.

Step 5:

Use a serious laundry detergent to make sure you’re killing germs and breaking down dirt and sweat on the inside of the masks. For hand washers, add approximately a teaspoon of detergent to the tub of water before putting in the masks. If someone in your household is sick or immunocompromised, you may want to add a disinfectant to the wash cycle. Depending on the fabric of your mask, Clorox can be used for white cotton fabrics. In order to be an efficient disinfectant, check the label to ensure it has a 5.25% to 6.15% concentration of sodium hypochlorite.

Step 6:

For the rinse cycle — via machine or hand — use warm or cool water.

Step 7:

If you’re using a dryer, dry cloth masks on the hottest heat cycle possible. For those laundering by hand, set the masks on a drying rack in direct sunlight.

Step 8:

Once the masks are completely dry, store them in an airtight container or a bag until you’re ready to wear them.

Step 9:

All of that mask cleaning won’t go very far if you’re not putting on and taking off your mask correctly. Always wash your hands with soap and water before putting on a face mask or use hand sanitizer if that’s not an option. Make sure to put on your mask the right way, with the inside of the mask closest to your face. It should fit securely around your face, covering both your mouth and nose. Don’t touch the mask while you’re wearing it. To take it off, never remove it from the front of your face. Instead, untie the strips or take it off by the elastic bands. Once off, be sure to wash your hands again.

Now that you know how to clean a cloth face mask, shop everything you need to get the job done:


1. WD37U Reusable Cotton Face Mask (Pack of 50)

This pack of 50 reusable three-ply face masks will keep you and your family set for a while. They’re made from 100% jersey cotton to keep you comfortable and they have an anti-microbial finish that lasts for up to 10 washes for an extra safety precaution. They come in packs of white or black.

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2. Vivifying Large Net Washing Bag

A net laundry bag will prevent your masks from getting snagged in your washing machine. This pack of four bags comes with three sizes: one extra-large, two medium and one small. The bags have big holes to ensure delicates come out clean and they’re made from thick, high-quality polyester mesh, so they’ll last. Tough zippers mean they’ll stay closed while in your machine.

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3. AmazonBasics Foldable Clothes Drying Laundry Rack

This drying rack has an accordion design that folds flat, so it barely takes up any space in storage. The rack is strong yet super lightweight, thanks to the fact that it’s crafted from steel, so it’s easy to move. It’s waterproof and mildew-resistant, so it’ll keep your clothes and home clean and smelling fresh. The drying rack has a 32-pound weight capacity, so you can use it for a lot more than your face masks.

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4. Homz Plastic Storage Bins

You’ll want to keep washed masks in airtight bins until you’re ready to wear them and this one will do the trick. Its lid snaps shut and locks onto the base of the container for a secure closure. Meanwhile, it has a six-quart storage capacity, which is plenty of space for all your masks. Made from sturdy see-through plastic, you won’t have to open it to see how many clean masks you have left. Made in the USA, the set of storage bins comes with 10 clear plastic bins and 10 white plastic lids and they’re all stackable to maximize your space.

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5. Tide Laundry Detergent

A classic mainstay in laundry rooms everywhere, Tide Laundry Detergent is known for getting the job done — that’s why it’s a top seller in the country. Featuring the original scent, this bottle has you covered for 64 loads of laundry. It boasts 10 times the cleaning power, so your face masks will be squeaky clean.

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6. Clorox Disinfecting Bleach

When you need to take an extra step to disinfect your face masks, Clorox has you covered. Simply add it to your washing machine and the cleaning bleach will kill 99.9% of household germs and bacteria. Thanks to CloroMax Technology, it will also wipe out stains and keep your whites whiter for longer.

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7. Gain Laundry Detergent Liquid

If you love the smell of clean laundry, you’ll want this one in your washing machine since it has an aroma boost. It promises to keep your clothes fresh for six weeks after washing until you wear them. The formula is made with 100% renewable wind power electricity and it’s free of phosphates.

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