Cloth face masks combined with other measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of COVID-19 infection.
According to the CDC, the SARS-Cov-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19 infection) is thought to spread most often person-to-person through respiratory droplets. These droplets are released into the air when somebody coughs or sneezes, or even just through talking. Yes, talking! Simply having a conversation with an infected person can spread the virus. Furthermore, it is now understood that those infected may spread the virus days before developing symptoms, or may have no symptoms at all yet still be able to spread the virus.
Wearing cloth face masks will be our new normal for the foreseeable future. It is important that you and your children choose appropriate masks and know how to properly handle and care for your mask.
I have spent hours researching the available data. I am also a wife and mother and I have been working to incorporate protocols for proper mask use and care in our home. In today’s blog, I am sharing a summary of my recommendations on the use of cloth face masks, as well as some tips and tricks from my own personal experience.
WHAT TYPE OF MASK?
When choosing a face mask, it is important to consider both the type of fabric and the fit of the mask to your face.
YOUR MASK SHOULD BE 2-3 LAYERS OF FABRIC.
- The World Health Organization recommends a cloth mask of at least three layers of different materials.
- I recommend at least one layer of your mask be 100% cotton, ideally the layer that sits closest to your face.
CONSIDER A FILTER IN THE MIDDLE LAYER OF YOUR MASK.
- You can turn a two-layer mask into three layers by adding a filter. If your mask does not have a filter pocket, you can create one with a pair of scissors.
- Consider using a polypropylene filter in your mask, especially if facing long periods of time in enclosed spaces with other people. Polypropylene holds an electrostatic charge, which may help to trap both outgoing and incoming respiratory droplets.
- Note - polypropylene will lose its electrostatic charge when you wash it. You can recharge it by ironing it or by rubbing it with a plastic glove for around 20 seconds.
- Tip: I ordered a large roll of “Oly-fun” polypropylene fabric online for less than $15. I was able to cut multiple filters out of the fabric and even share it with friends.
- Three-ply facial tissues (Kleenex) can also be used as filters but should be disposed of after use.
EARLOOPS VS. TIES?
- This is an entirely personal preference, whatever is more comfortable for you.
- Tip: I keep both available. My preference is to use a tied mask for longer periods of time because it seems to stay in place better. Masks with ear loops can be easier for quick trips.
YOUR MASK SHOULD FIT TIGHTLY TO YOUR FACE.
- The edges of your mask should fit snug against your skin, avoiding gaps.
- Your mask should cover both your nose and your mouth.
- A light flexible wire in your mask allows for a better fit over your nose and helps your mask to stay in place.
REMOVING YOUR MASK:
- Wash your hands before removing your mask.
- Don’t touch the front of the mask or your face!
- Grasp the ear loops or ties of the mask to remove.
- Use a washable or disposable bag to store your mask.
- Wash your hands again!
- Trick: Attaching a Ziploc plastic bag to your child’s backpack provides easy mask storage.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU WASH YOUR MASKS?
- Ideally, masks should be washed after each use. This is especially important if wearing the mask for longer periods of time in enclosed spaces with multiple people.
- Without washing your mask, simply not using your mask for 3 to 5 days should render the mask safe for use. You can speed up this process by placing your mask in direct sunlight.
- Tip: having multiple masks for each family member makes this process much easier. I try to gather up masks and wash them in batches.
- Trick: in an attempt to avoid my boys placing used masks on the kitchen counter, I created a mask station using ribbon and clothespins. This keeps our masks separate from other surfaces.
HOW TO WASH YOUR MASK.
- You can machine washcloth masks with your other laundry, using regular detergent in a warm or hot setting. You do not need to wash your masks separately or use a sanitizing mode.
- Alternatively, you can hand wash your mask using hot soapy water. A 20-second scrub should do the trick, just like washing your hands!
- Masks can be dried in the dryer or laid flat to dry.
- Tip: I occasionally wash our masks in the laundry machine, however, I prefer to hand wash and lie flat to dry. This seems to avoid excessive wear and tear on the fabric and helps to keep the mask's shape and form. When possible, I place to dry in direct sunlight.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, I remain committed to provide my patients and followers with useful and accurate information. I encourage you to use these resources to help in making informed decisions on how go about your daily activities in a safe and healthy way. Please share with friends!