What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Washing machine
- Sink or plastic tub
- Mesh laundry bag (optional)
- Clothes dryer, clothesline, or drying rack
- Heavy-duty detergent
- Laundry sanitizer, chlorine bleach or pine oil
- Paper bag
- Disposable gloves
Protect Your Hands
When it's time to wash a face mask, it is important to protect your hands with disposable gloves. Keep the mask away from your face and wash your hands, even if you are wearing gloves, after handling the masks.
Sort the Fabrics
If the mask is made from white, colorfast cotton, or cotton/polyester fabric, it can be washed with white bed sheets or towels. If the mask is made from brightly-colored fabrics, it should be tested to make sure the fabric is colorfast before it is washed for the first time.
Dampen a cotton swab and rub it over the fabric and any trim. If any color transfers to the cotton swab, the fabric is not colorfast and it will bleed dye in the wash. This mask should be washed alone or hand-washed to prevent dye-transfer to other clothes in the load.
If you are washing a homemade mask fashioned from a scarf or bandana with rubber bands or hair ties, remove the bands before washing. Also, remove any non-woven inserts like coffee filter papers and dispose of them.
Use a Mesh Laundry Bag
A mesh laundry bag will help keep masks together in the washer. If the masks have string ties, the bag will also help prevent tangling.
The entire mesh laundry bag and the masks can be tossed directly into the dryer.
Set the Water Temperature and Washer Cycle
Cloth face masks should be washed in hot water using the normal cycle. If you are hand washing the mask in a sink, use hot water.
Add the Detergent
Disinfect the Fabric
While using hot water for washing and then drying on high heat will effectively clean masks, if someone is ill adding a disinfectant offers another layer of protection.
The type of disinfectant you should use is dependent upon the type of fabric. While chlorine bleach is an excellent disinfectant, it can damage the fabric if used incorrectly.
- Phenolic disinfectants, like Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, are effective in all water temperatures and can be used on white and colored fabrics. Phenolic disinfectants are usually added during the rinse cycle. Always read product labels and follow the directions carefully.
- Liquid chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) may be used in hot, warm or cold water temperatures on white fabrics only. To be effective, there must be a 5.25% to 6.15% concentration of sodium hypochlorite. Not all chlorine bleach formulas are that strong, so read the labels. Examples of liquid chlorine bleaches include Clorox and all supermarket house brands.
- Pine oil disinfectants are effective in hot and warm water and can be used on both white and colored fabrics. Brand names include Pine-Sol, Spic-n-Span Pine, and Lysol Pine Action. They should be added at the beginning of the wash cycle. To be effective, the product must contain 80% pine oil.
Dry the Mask on High Heat
Set the dryer temperature to high and tumble dry the masks. The high heat will help kill any lingering bacteria. If you do not have a dryer, place the masks in a spot where they will receive direct sunlight.
When the masks are dry, store the freshly washed masks in a covered container (like a shoe box or small plastic tub) until you are ready to use one.