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Face mask tips: How and when to wash your cloth face mask

Experts recommend washing reusable face masks after each use.

TAMPA, Fla — We are six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the one accessory we’ve all added to our wardrobe is the face mask.

Whether you have a disposable or reusable cloth face mask, each one should be handled with care.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends throwing away disposable face masks in the trash after every use.

RELATED: The safe, healthy way to remove a face mask

But what about reusable cloth face masks?

“Every time people go out wearing a cloth face mask, in public, when they come home, they really should wash their masks with soap and water and let it air dry,” says Annette Bougault, who is a Critical Care Researcher and professor at UCF College of Nursing.

Carolyn Forte, the director of Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, agrees and says washing your cloth face mask is not complicated.

“The best way is to wash it is in the washing machine on a warm or hot setting, provided the fabric can take that, and then put it in the dryer on a hot setting too,” says Forte.

“And you can do it along with your regular laundry, so it's not like you need to do a separate load, just for the face masks.

For those who opt to wash their cloth face masks by hand, the CDC recommends soaking them in a bleach and water solution.

“Give them a good scrub for at least 20 seconds, if not longer, rinse them well, and then put them in the dryer,” says Forte.

If you do not have a dryer, Bougault and Forte say it’s okay to let cloth face masks air-dry.

One thing to keep in mind is that some cloth face masks come with reusable filters. Forte says filters should also be handled with care. “The more often you wash those filters, the less protection they're going to give you so they're going to degrade over time.”

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