Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, face masks have become a common sight across the UK both indoors and outdoors. They come in a variety of colours, styles and designs as wearers look to personalise the item of clothing that has now become a part of our daily work look. As a result, many have stated wearing reusable face coverings as a more economical and environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable single-use face masks.
Although wearing reusable face masks have many benefits to them, with their increased use there are concerns that people might not be using them correctly. To be effective in minimising the risk of the Covid-19 virus, they must be worn correctly and all the advised face mask guidelines must be followed. This is especially important when social distancing in the workplace is not possible.
Unlike their single-use counterpart, cloth face masks need regular cleaning. This is because the pierce of fabric covers your nose and mouth every time you put it on, and if you don’t wash it after every use, you could be doing more harm than good.
A public survey carried out by YouGov in August 2020 showed that reusable masks were the most popular type of face covering; 69% said they used this type of mask. However, the research also showed that only 13% of wearers who use reusable face masks, are actually cleaning them correctly.
So why is it so important to clean your mask, and what are some of the best ways to do it? We’ll clarify all below!
Why is washing my face mask so important?
The main reason for washing your face mask after every single use? Because the reusable mask itself can become contaminated with the virus. Of course face masks are designed to hinder the spread of the virus, but despite what you might think, they aren’t 100% effective.
When we use masks, we always touch them with our hands to take them on and off. If you don’t properly clean and maintain it after use, it can serve as a vector for transmission itself. A used mask will touch your nose and mouth, allowing any existing viral particles on it to get into your respiratory system and infect you.
But it’s not just yourself that you can endanger with an unwashed face mask. The environment around us is constantly contaminating our clothes with bacteria, viruses and fungi, and this can include Covid-19. If you take off your used mask and leave it laying around your home, it can contaminate these surfaces too, putting everyone in your household at risk.
How often should we be cleaning our face masks?
Once you’ve understood the importance of cleaning your face mask, how many times should you actually be washing it? A good rule to follow is by cleaning your reusable face covering after every use. If you’ve used it all day in the office, then after work, take it home and wash it straight away. This way, your mask is clean and ready to use the next morning when you leave the house.
It’s also worth pointing out that if your mask is visibly wet, or you’ve coughed or sneezed into it, then you should probably change or wash it as soon as possible. If you work full-time or plan on being out of the house for a while, it’s working taking a spare mask or two, so you always have a clean on at hand.
What’s the correct way to look after a reusable face mask?
Need to know exactly how you can look after your face mask to ensure it remains effective? Take a look at these simple but effective steps below.
Wash after every wear
As mentioned above, washing your face covering after every use is the best way to protect yourself against stray viral particles that might have ended up on the mask’s fabric. Wet and soiled masks are less effective in minimising the spread too, as water and dirt restrict the airflow of the mask, affecting its ability to filter these particles.
Machine wash or hand wash?
Most reusable fabric face masks can be either hand washed or thrown in with normal laundry on a machine wash. If you want to put your mask in the washing machine, you can simply use a normal regular detergent to clean it thoroughly on a 60 degrees wash.
However, if you don’t want to use your washing machine every day to clean your face mask, you can also clean it by hand. Using soap and hot water to lather your mask, make sure you scrub both sides of the cloth for at least twenty seconds before you rinse and ring out the water.
Air out or tumble dry the mask
After washing your mask, you must make sure that it’s completely dry before reusing it. This is because wet or damp masks hinder its ability to work properly. To air dry the face covering, lay it flat on a clean surface or hang it by the straps in direct sunlight. Some reusable masks can also be tumble dried on a high heat setting, but double check the label first to see if it is suitable.
Store them away safely
Once you’re happy that your face mask is clean and dry, make sure you store it safely in a resealable bag if you’re not planning on using it straight away. This is so it won’t get recontaminated in the bottom of your bag or pocket.
When you’re ready to use it again, make sure your hands are clean and disinfected before you pick up your mask by the straps and attach it to your face.
Is it not easier to buy disposable masks?
It might seem more convenient to use disposable masks because you don’t have the hassle of washing them regularly. However, although it might seem easier to just wear a single-use mask and then throw it away after use, they’re not very cost effective. There are also all sorts of complications when it comes to the environmental impact of surgical masks.
If you’re thinking of buying face masks for your office staff to use, here’s why you should opt for reusable ones, instead of single-use plastic masks.
Disposable masks can only be worn once, so that means you’ll effectively only be buying your employees masks that just have a single use. In the long run, this isn’t very cost-effective for your business. On the other hand, investing in reusable fabric masks for your staff means that they can be washed and reused as many times as necessary. You only have the initial purchase to pay for.
Impact on the environment
Conservationists have warned that the use of disposable plastic masks could spark a surge in ocean pollution. Many have already found the sea awash with disposable masks that are floating like jellyfish.
But it’s not just the oceans that are threatened, plastic face masks can also end up in landfill sites, where they can take up to 450 years to decompose! You can minimise your company’s impact on the environment by providing your staff with reusable cloth face masks, rather than plastic ones.
Protect your employees with Mask4Life reusable face masks
You might be wondering how many face masks your staff will need? It completely depends on what your company does as a business, and whether your workplace is required by law to wear face coverings. If your workplace is classed as a public space, then the government states that it is mandatory that both staff and customers wear a face covering indoors.
If your business is not required by law to enforce mask wearing, then you should check your Covid-19 risk assessment to see whether you want to enforce a rule in your workplace. Based on the outcome of this, you should always provide suitable face coverings for all your staff.
Mask4Life has a variety of reusable face masks that offer suitable protection and meet the recommended mask guidelines. Find out how much you could save using our online calculator, by switching to our wholesale face masks, available to buy online today. We also provide masks with PVC windows for those that need visual communication to speak with others!