I’ve come to prefer wearing a cloth face mask when I have to go out. Relying on disposable surgical face masks would be an added monthly expense. And as long as the cloth masks has the right amount of layers with an added small disposable filter in between it, it should still be considered safe to use.
Also, cloth masks can come in so many different colours and styles—with more and more fashion brands coming up with new ways to design them. But the best part is being able to reuse them instead of disposing of them after one use.
However, they should also be washed properly. Let’s say you come into contact with an infected person while wearing a mask. Virus particles could land on your mask and contaminate it. So, if you don’t wash your cloth mask correctly, you might infect yourself or others by touching the contaminated mask.
When to clean your cloth mask
It’s important to remember that all reusable cloth masks should be cleaned after each use. But for example if you’re been out and about for a long period of time during the day and you’ve noticed that the mask you’re wearing is moist from sweat, or is visibly dirty, you should replace it with a spare mask.
To take your mask off, remember that it may be contaminated so do not touch the front of the mask. Instead, hold the loops or ties to take it off, then store it in a plastic bag or dedicated area, ready to be washed. You should also wash your hands immediately.
How to clean your cloth mask
There are two ways you can wash your mask. The easiest way is to toss it in the washing machine along with the rest of your clothes. But you have to make sure that you use a detergent and use the warmest temperature setting your clothes and cloth can handle.
The second way is to wash your cloth mask by hand. To do so properly, use a bucket of hot water with a detergent (the detergent is essential). If you have a water heater at home, the hot water from the tap will do.
Once you get that bucket of hot water and detergent, let the cloth mask soak in the wate for a few minutes, give it a hand wash and rinse. You can also leave the mask in the water for longer, but if your mask remains visibly dirty, try washing it in the washing machine.
You don’t have to use disinfectant in your wash. As for the detergent, you may want to use a non-scented detergent if you are sensitive to the smell. You should also ensure you wash your hands after you handle your mask, in general.
You can use a dryer (using a heat setting) or lay it flat to air-dry. Direct sunlight is also another way to dry your cloth mask. You can hang it, but it’s best to dry your cloth mask flat so it doesn’t lose its shape.
Make sure your cloth mask is thoroughly dry before you reuse it. A wet mask is not effective for protection. Once the mask is dry and you aren’t planning to use it for a while, store it in a clean, dry place where it won’t get contaminated again.
How often should you replace your cloth mask?
Here are some indications you may need a new one:
- It doesn’t fit snugly on your face anymore, or has lost its shape
- There are tears or holes, or the material is wearing thin
- It frequently falls down or you need to keep adjusting it
You should also remember to wear your mask properly, like how Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah advised us on his Facebook page. Ensure that it covers your mouth and nose, and do not wear a mask slung under your chin, or have your nose seen over the top.