Can we reuse disposable surgical masks during COVID-19?

Author: Michelle Yost  |  Last update: Saturday, November 20, 2021

COVID-19
Common question

Can we reuse disposable surgical masks during COVID-19?

The CDC does not recommend the reuse of disposable surgical masks that are intended to be used once. The FDA recognizes that there may be availability concerns with surgical masks during the COVID-19 public health emergency, but there are strategies to conserve surgical masks.

How often can I reuse a facemask during the COVID-19 pandemic?

● At this time, there is not known a maximum number of uses (donnings) the same facemask could be re-used.
● The facemask should be removed and discarded if soiled, damaged, or hard to breathe through.
● Not all facemasks can be re-used.
- Facemasks that fasten to the provider via ties may not be able to be undone without tearing and should be considered only for extended use, rather than re-use.
- Facemasks with elastic ear hooks may be more suitable for re-use.

Can I wear two disposable masks to protect against COVID-19?

Disposable masks are not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit.

Can reusable face masks be cleaned during COVID-19?

The CDC recommends reusable face masks be washed after each use and provides information on the cleaning of cloth face masks.

How to wash a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic?

• Include your mask with your regular laundry.
• Use regular laundry detergent and the appropriate settings according to the fabric label.

Mask Wearing 101: How to Properly Use & Re-use a Mask

How should I wash my mask and how often?

The CDC recommends washing your mask after each use, and you can wash it in a washing machine or by hand.

If using a washing machine, don't be afraid to wash your mask along with your regular laundry — with standard laundry detergent and the warmest water the cloth material of your mask can handle.

How to wash a face mask by hand?

• Wash your mask with tap water and laundry detergent or soap.
• Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove detergent or soap.

How should you clean your mask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wash cloth masks after each use. You can use your standard washer and dryer using the warmest setting possible for the material.

Hand washing with a bleach solution also works.

How should you keep masks and face covers clean?

If you’re wondering how often your mask or face covers need to be washed, the answer is simple. They should be laundered after every use.

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“If you can’t wash them right away, store them in a plastic bag or laundry basket,” Dr. Hamilton says. “Hand wash or wash on a gentle cycle using hot, soapy water. Then, dry them on high heat.” If you notice damage, or if the mask is heavily soiled, it’s best to throw it away.

When it comes to protecting yourself from COVID-19, you’re the first line of defense. Take the proper precautions to stay safe whether you’re out picking up essential supplies or receiving healthcare services.

Can I wash my cloth face covering in the washing machine during COVID-19?

● Include your mask with your regular laundry.
● Use regular laundry detergent and the appropriate settings according to the fabric label.

What does wearing two masks during COVID-19 do?

Double up to enhance mask fit
Adding more layers of material to a mask or wearing two masks reduces the number of respiratory droplets containing the virus that come through the mask.

What type of mask is recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

CDC recommends community use of masks, specifically non-valved, multi-layer cloth masks, to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Do I need to be double masking during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In situations where you need to wear a mask, double masking is still a good idea. A lab study published in MMWR observed masked and unmasked dummies that released aerosol particles from a mouthpiece when they were simulated to cough or breathe. The study found that wearing a multilayered cloth mask over a surgical mask or wearing a tightly fitted surgical mask substantially increased the level of protection for both the mask wearer and others.

When double masking, the CDC recommends wearing a snug cloth mask over a surgical mask. Surgical masks provide better filtration, but tend to fit loosely. Cloth masks close any gaps and provide another layer of protection. Surgical masks are sometimes called medical masks or medical procedure masks.

Can I get COVID-19 from touching the front of my face mask?

By touching the front of your mask, you might infect yourself. Don't touch the front of your mask while you're wearing it. After taking your mask off, it's still not safe to touch the front of it. Once you've washed the mask in a normal washing machine, the mask is safe to wear again.

How long does COVID-19 survive on fabric?

A study published in found that at room temperature, COVID-19 was detectable on fabric for up to two days, compared to seven days for plastic and metal. However, when it was exposed to high heat, the virus became inactive within five minutes.

What should you do if you accidentally touched your mask?

Don't touch your mask while wearing it. If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.

How should cloth face coverings worn at work be handled, stored, and washed during the coronavirus pandemic?

When wearing a cloth face covering, it should fit over the nose and mouth, fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, and be secured with ties or ear loops. The cloth face covering should allow the wearer to breathe without restriction.

Employees should avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth as well as the inside or outside of the face covering while putting on, wearing, and removing it. When putting on and removing it, they should only touch the ties or ear loops.

If storing the cloth face covering while at work, employees should place the used cloth face covering into a container or paper bag labeled with the employee’s name.

Cloth face coverings should not be shared with others unless they are washed and dried first.

Should I wash my hands after taking off the mask during COVID-19?

Make sure to wash or sanitize your hands after removing your mask. After eating, put the mask back on with the same side facing out. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands again after putting your mask back on.

What should I do if my cloth face mask gets wet?

Consider carrying a spare cloth face covering or mask. If the cloth face covering or mask becomes wet, visibly soiled, or contaminated at work, it should be removed and stored to be laundered later.

How to disinfect my clothes from the COVID-19 virus?

If you're worried that your clothes may have been contaminated while at the store or another public space where social distancing is challenging, toss them into the washing machine when you get home. Standard laundry detergents should be sufficient to wash and sanitize your clothes.

How can I prevent my glasses fogging up when wearing a face covering?

This has been an issue for some people. Some research recommends cleaning your glasses carefully with soapy water and making sure they are dry before putting them on. Fogging can happen as you breathe out and the air goes upward towards your glasses, so you could also try ensuring the covering is tighter above your nose.

How do cloth face coverings and face shields protect against COVID-19?

Cloth face coverings and face shields are types of source control that provide a barrier between droplets produced from a potentially infected person and other people, reducing the likelihood of transmitting the virus.

Does wearing a mask harm your health?

No, wearing a mask will not harm your health even if you are sick with a cold or allergies. If your mask gets too moist just make sure you are changing it regularly.

Do I have to wear a mask every time I leave the house?

You should be wearing a mask outside if:
• It is difficult to maintain the recommended 6-foot social distancing from others (such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy or walking on a busy street or in a crowded neighborhood)
• If required to by law. Many areas now have mandatory masking regulations when in public

What is CDC stance on face coverings in workplace?

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings as a protective measure in addition to social distancing (i.e., staying at least 6 feet away from others). Cloth face coverings may be especially important when social distancing is not possible or feasible based on working conditions.

A cloth face covering may reduce the amount of large respiratory droplets that a person spreads when talking, sneezing, or coughing.

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