As the world begins to unlock following the strict social distancing measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, governments are advising citizens to wear face masks when in public. However, do you know how to keep yours in working order so it can keep you safe?
Whilst those emergency services that are working on the front line of the novel coronavirus outbreak need medical grade face masks, for the vast majority, homemade cloth masks will provide enough protection. These homemade face masks are very easy to create but to keep yourself, and those around you, protected you need to know how to wear, clean, and maintain them.
How to correctly wear your face mask
Most governments are now encouraging people to wear their face masks whenever they are in an enclosed public space, such as on buses or trains. However, any time that you go out you should be wearing a face mask. The COVID-19 virus does not always display symptoms in those infected, which means people could be unwittingly passing it on as they go about their daily lives. Wearing a face mask helps to trap infected particles you breathe out and reduce the spread of this deadly disease.
Before you put your face mask on, you should ensure that you have thoroughly washed your hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds. If you are not able to do this, then you should use a hand sanitizer to remove all the germs that might be on your hands and could end up on the mask.
When you have done this, examine the mask to make sure that there are no rips or signs of damage and then, holding the mask by the ear loops, place it over each ear. If your face mask has ties instead then place the mask over your nose and tie it around the crown of your head.
Once secure, if your mask has a nose bridge then clasp it around your nose and then pull the mask down over your chin to ensure that your entire mouth and nose are covered. The mask is designed to prevent particles you exhale from entering the environment, but they should not restrict your breathing in any way.
To take the mask off, you should again clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you touch it, in case the front of the mask is contaminated. Only touching the loops, unhook the mask from your ears, and pull it away from your face. Once removed, you should immediately clean the mask to ensure all bacteria and germs are removed.
How to clean your face mask
Depending on the type of face mask you own, there are many different ways to keep it clean and sanitised. Disposable masks and medical-grade masks should be thrown away as soon as you have finished with them and equally, you should dispose of any additional filtration you might have included in the mask such as coffee filters, etc.
For cloth and other homemade masks, however, there are four primary ways to clean them:
1) Washing it
For most cloth face masks, the best way to ensure that they are completely clean and safe to use again is to wash it just like you would any other cotton material. Putting it in your washing machine at the warmest possible temperature – no less than 60 degrees – will help to remove any bacteria on the mask.
Once washed, you should then ensure that it fully dry, and using warm air to do this is preferable. If you are unable to use your washing machine, then using boiling water and some form of antibacterial wash will be sufficient enough.
2) High heat
If you are in a rush and cannot wait for it to dry, or you would like the added peace of mind, then running a high iron over your cotton face masks is a great way to speed the drying process up. The high heat of the iron will also help to disinfect your mask even further.
3) Disinfectant wipes
If you are short on time, or you are away from home, there are still several ways you can keep your face mask clean. One such way is to use disinfectant wipes, which are particularly useful for masks that are made of plastic or when you are on the go.
Although it is not always as effective as a full wash through your machine, this is a great way to ensure that your mask remains clean whilst you are at work. Keeping a pack of disinfectant sanitising wipes at hand as you travel to work or visit friends will let you wipe the mask down before wearing it again to get home.
4) UV-C Light
The coronavirus outbreak has seen a rise in the number of portable ultraviolet light cleaning products. Ultraviolet light is separated into three wavelengths, UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C and it is the latter of these which is germicidal and capable of sanitising your belongings.
It does this by damaging the cells of the virus, preventing them from multiplying. There are many different UV-C products out there, from boxes that can sterilise your phones, keys, and face masks, to sanitising wands for larger areas and even light bulbs!
Importance of maintenance
No matter whether it is a face mask you purchased or one you have made at home, keeping it cleaned regularly will help to ensure that you can remain safe whenever you go out in public. However, whilst care and maintenance can help to ensure that your mask can keep you safe for a long time, no mask will be able to last forever.
Regularly checking your mask and examining it for signs of wear and tear should be an important step you take before putting it on. Hot water tends to break fibres down, so over time, you might begin to see some areas of your cloth mask beginning to thin, and holes start to appear.
When this happens, it is time to replace your face mask and make a new one. As the world begins to unlock, face masks are going to become an important part of how the virus is controlled and its spread reduced so make sure you get into the habit of wearing, cleaning, and maintaining your mask today!