Caring for a fabric face mask: wash, wear, repeat
I've gotten some questions about how to care for the fabric face masks that I've been making. Here are tips for caring for the ones I've made, as well as some general tips to consider with face coverings in general.
When a mask is worn, consider it dirty. A good image that someone shared with me is to think of a worn mask like a dirty diaper. Would you shove a dirty diaper in your pocket? No! Would you place a dirty diaper in your purse? Nope!
In my household, we currently only leave the house to walk the dog. Each human wears a mask when we do this, and upon entering the house, it goes straight into the washing machine. After a few days, the machine is run and a fresh batch of clean masks emerge for more dog walking.
Wash and dry as you would your normal laundry. All of the fabrics I use have been pre-washed and pre-dried with machines with scent-free detergents. They should not shrink or bleed.
The fabric straps of the masks can be pesky. If you are washing several masks together, they tend to knot together in the machine. Simply take care when removing your laundry and unwind the tangles. Alternatively, if you have a mesh bag for washing delicate items, stick your masks inside for the wash.
I stitch aluminum nose pieces into the top of each face mask. These are permanently stitched in and not removable (unless you undo some stitching). The aluminum is ok to wash and should not rust.
Here's how the CDC recommends you wash a face mask.
Make sure you have a comfortable and snug fit when wearing a face covering. The flexible aluminum strip at the nose in my masks helps you get a tight fit. If you wear glasses or sunglasses, a snug fit at the nose will help reduce or eliminate the fogging of your lenses.
A comfortable fit is important because you also should not need to keep adjusting your mask. If you need to fiddle with your mask, you touch your face. This will compromise the integrity of your face cover with any germs on your hands. This is also why children may be better off without masks. If they cannot keep their hands off of a mask or wear it properly, it may do more harm than good by promoting more face contact.
Here's how the CDC recommends you wear a face mask. The CDC does not recommend face masks for children under 2.
Remember that a mask or face covering is not magic and does not make you invincible. They should supplement other good and proven practices like washing your hands, social distancing (whenever possible), and not touching your face.