How to Sanitize and care for Your Homemade Reusable Mask (updated 04/30/2020)

PART 3

Cleaning your reusable mask properly will be important. You want to retains its effectiveness for as long as possible. Having the removable insert will definitely help the mask’s longevity.

Covid19 virus is much more stable in the environment than other viruses which makes it highly contagious. Aerosolized Covid is detectable in the air for up to three hours. According the the reference below, on a cloth face mask Covid19 would be viable for 2 days.

Mask with outside down

To take your mask off, your hands have to be properly cleaned. The outside of your mask is considered contaminated so don’t touch it. With clean hands, take mask off by the ear loops. I put mine directly into a paper bag until I can wash it. The paper bag needs to be discarded. If you will need to put it back on again before washing, then put mask down with outside part facing down onto a couple layers of paper towel. Then, with clean hands, handle only the ear loops to put back on your face. The paper towel will need to be discarded.

You will want to wash your reusable mask for 2 reasons. Grime and build up of virus.

How do I sanitize my homemade mask? 

Different options are:

  • Separate your mask and double layer tea towel inserts. Put mask and tea towel inserts into a cotton pillow case. You will need to tie the pillow case up with a knot, shoelace or string or use a wash bag. If you don’t do this, your mask can get destroyed in either the washer or dryer. Put pillow case and its contents in washer and run hot water cycle with small amount of detergent. After washing, put the closed pillow case with mask and filter into dryer with high heat setting. After it is dry, it is ready for reuse. You need one mask and 2 tea towel filters to do this method.
  • If you want to leave mask and filters out to air dry, preferably under a heat vent or direct sunlight, then to be safe, leave it out for at least 48 hours before re-wearing. If you put it out in direct sunlight, 24 hours might be good enough. Make sure you open up the mask and put the outside of the mask up towards the sunlight. You might need about 3 masks with 8 tea towel inserts. Each day of mask use, requires 2 inserts since your should change out your mask insert about half way thru your day (every 3-4 hours if wearing continuously). Washing does cause your mask to lose some fibers. You need to check mask and insert regularly to make sure it has not thinned out or damaged. A Hepa insert can’t be washed. You have to let a Hepa insert sit out for 72 hours because they are made of polypropylene. Hepa filters need to be replaced every 6 months or immediately if it looks soiled, damaged, or filled with virus (you cannot see that with naked eye). Hepa filters are not so expensive. You can make more filters by cutting up a Hepa vacuum bag.
  • You could let it sit for 5 minutes in a diluted bleach solution (colored fabric will get discolored). To make this solution use 1 quart hot water and 2 tablespoons of Regular Clorox Bleach disinfectant (6% Sodium hypochlorite if you are using another brand). Too strong of a bleach solution can destroy fabric. Too weak of a solution will not sanitize. https://www.clorox.com/resources/coronavirus/how-to-make-your-own-disinfecting-solution/ Put mask and tea towel filter into a plastic container like a cleaned large yogurt container. Add enough of diluted bleach solution to cover mask (and dish towel inserts). Never put bleach directly onto fabric. It will destroy the fabric. Avoid splashing, as bleach is an acid and is corrosive. Make sure mask is completely covered with the diluted bleach solution. Gently swirl your mask around then let your mask soak for 5 minutes in the diluted bleach solution. To swirl mask, use either a wooden stick like spare plain wood chopsticks (not lacquered) or wooden spoon to swirl. These wood items and plastic container should now be dedicated to washing your mask only. You can also wear protective gloves especially if you have reusable ones. Don’t want to waste disposable ones. Avoid metal as the metal corrodes but note that the nose wire in my masks are aluminum. The metal will slowly corrode over time if you bleach frequently. Rinse well: 3 times then let it sit in fresh rinse water for 15minutes and rinse again. Use wood stick to hold mask when pouring out the water. This will prevent the mask from falling into sink. Remove mask from water and roll up the mask lengthwise then gently squeeze out water. Hang to dry. If you can, near a heat vent or in the sunlight. This will shorten the drying time. With bleach method of sanitizing, you do not need to wait 48 hours before wearing mask again. Just as long as it is dry. Some important notes about bleach. An unopened container of bleach shelf life is only 1 year and after it is opened expires in 6 months if stored at 70 degrees, in a dark (opaque plastic) airtight container. Light and air will degrade bleach. You want to make sure your bleach is not “expired” otherwise it will not kill the germs, in this case Covid19. Your bleach mixture is only good for 24 hours. It won’t sanitize after that.
  • Other methods are UV light. A hospital in Nebraska is doing this. I am not going to advise this method because UV only sanitizes the surface it shines on and there are too many folds in our mask to make this work. Plus the power of the UV light and the distance from it are other variables difficult for a non professional to calculate. UV light can damage your eyes. Probably not a good idea for your average household. (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.11.20062018v1)
  • DO NOT microwave because there is metal in the mask.  
  • REMINDERS – Do inspect your mask for wear and tear. If it feels like it is thinning out or you can see light thru it or damaged, replace it. Hoping this pandemic will be over before you need a new one. Please send me a comment. Any ideas are welcomed.

Congratulations for learning about this. Thank you for contributing to a greater societal good and protecting yourself and the people around you. I know for many, this is a really difficult time. We will get thru this.

Question: How do you personally cleaning your mask? I am either letting it sit for 48 hours or washing with detergent and hot water, hanging it to dry for at least 48 hrs. Reasons for that are 1. Bleach will likely corrode the wire piece, 2. bleach weaken the mask fibers 3. I could not find any bleach anywhere so bleaching not an option for me right now.

Question: How do I prevent my eye glasses from fogging up when I have a mask on?

Here ‘s what I have done- pull the mask up closer to my eyes so hot expelled air is further from glasses and can escape out up at top glasses and not on your glasses. It also means the seal at top of my mask is not air tight. Try to get a better fit with the top of the mask. A true N95 mask would not fog up your glasses if properly worn. You can also try dipping your glasses in a diluted dish soap solution and letting it air dry.

May you be Happy, May you be Healthy.

**********************

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2010/12/study-airborne-particles-coughs-can-carry-flu-viruses

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhinovirus

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirator-use-faq.html

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-coronavirus-stable-hours-surfaces https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/cleaning-tips/a28326770/best-laundry-wash-bags/

https://www.euromarc.co.nz/blog-detail/how-long-does-a-respirator-filter-last/128.aspx

https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/general_decontamination_fact.pdf

http://www.clorox.com

https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/health/coronavirus-masks-reuse.html 

This blog is in no way meant to give any medical advice, diagnosis or treat.

Everyone’s situation is different.

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