How to Sanitize Your Reusable Masks Safely

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Masks are great at reducing the spread of the coronavirus and hopefully you’re all doing your part in wearing your masks when in public to help keep the Covid-19 pandemic under control. The masks stop coughs and sneezes from spraying all over the place. Masks do not kill the virus, but they are great at capturing viruses and other germs in the air. Of course, it’s better to have those nasty bugs on your mask than in your lungs. But still, it’s kind of gross to think about how many germs are collecting on the fabric that is sitting right in front of your mouth and nose every day. And it’s only natural to wonder how you can disinfect your masks and keep them clean. Here are a few methods you can use to sanitize your reusable masks at home and on the go.

The simplest way, recommended by the CDC, is washing your mask in the laundry using hot water, standard laundry detergent and a dryer at the hottest setting. This will kill the coronavirus as well as most of the other nasty bacteria, molds and viruses. If you do not want to use a washing machine, you can wash by hand by adding a little bleach to your water (5 tablespoons per gallon).

The second way you can disinfect your mask is with heat. Some hospitals use an oven set to 160°F for 30 minutes to sanitize N95 masks without damaging the fibers. However, they have special ovens and safety procedures in place to prevent fires. I do not advise putting any cloth in your home oven. A safer alternative is to use a steam iron set to cotton to heat the mask for 3 minutes. This can still be a bit tricky, because you need to keep the mask hot for the entire time, but not be absolutely sure to keep moving the iron around so you do not burn your mask or start a fire.

Finally, chemical sanitizers can be sprayed onto the mask. By chemicals, I mean both the synthetic chemicals with long crazy names like Dodecylbenzenesulfonic Acid and natural chemicals that you are familiar with, like lactic acid. There are a few products on the market now that can be used on the go to “refresh” a mask. But beware, refreshing is not the same as disinfecting or sanitizing. Usually, you can tell if a product is an effective anti-viral by checking for the EPA registration. But registering a new product takes a very long time (5-24 months), and priority is given to existing products that want to add coronaviruses to their list. Mask refresher sprays are new, and therefore aren’t registered yet. Instead, you can check the ingredients in the spray bottle against the EPA’s list of approved disinfectants. The EPA has a searchable table of these disinfectants that they keep updated regularly. If the active ingredients on the label of the spray don’t show up in the EPA’s table, don’t assume it will be effective on your mask. Essential oils smell pleasant, but they don’t have the data backing them up for this use. Also, double check the concentration of the active ingredient if you that information is made available to you. Just like chlorine in a swimming pool, disinfectants need to reach a certain level to be effective.

I hope you find these tips helpful.Stay safe and keep strong.

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