Health Advice



How to clean your face mask to help prevent getting and spreading the coronavirus

Nick Vadala, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

PHILADELPHIA -- Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health now recommend we all wear face masks when going about essential tasks in public, as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Those types of masks have become a hot topic online during the ongoing outbreak, and are often constructed simply of cotton fabric, elastic, and some thread. According to the CDC, cloth masks can help prevent people who have the virus but may not be showing any symptoms from spreading it by containing the respiratory droplets that we all expel when we talk, cough, or sneeze.

Or, as the PADOH puts it, "my mask protects you, your mask protects me."

But a lot of people still have questions. Chief among them: How do you take care of your new covering? How many do you need? How do you properly take it off and put it on? Here is what you need to know:

How many masks should you have?

The PADOH recommends that you wash or discard a mask after every use. With that in mind, having more than one mask available per person would be ideal.


Nicole Jochym, a third-year medical school student at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University working with the Sew Face Masks Philadelphia organization, says that five masks per person would be a good number, but at least two is advisable. That way, you can change your masks as needed and won't be stuck constantly doing laundry.

"You should have a small set," Jochym says. "Your set should be determined on your habits, and how you keep up with laundry and care."

How often do you need to change them? Darrell Spurlock, director of the Leadership Center for Nursing Education Research at Widener University and a professor in Widener's Ph.D. nursing program, says you should treat your masks like you treat your underwear.

"Lacking available data to suggest otherwise, changing out or laundering a cloth mask should follow the same routine as underwear," he says. "Change them daily and when soiled."


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