Ever since Victorian premier Daniel Andrew's made wearing a mask in public compulsory for Mebulrnians, there has undoubtedly been a spike in both the sales of reusable masks and - you guessed it - the wearing of them too. Now, after NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced over the weekend that the state is strongly recommending the use of masks in public spaces where social distancing is not possible, we're hoping that the nation will be upping their mask game. If you're unsure where to purchase a reusable mask, we've got a running list going here, and if you're unsure why we need to be taking this mask-wearing business seriously, we've jotted down some information on the topic here.
While washing your reusable face mask might be a no-brainer to some, doing so in a way that will effectively kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus is a slightly more hands-on task.
If dealing with fabrics that can handle machine washing, the CDC recommends using regular detergent on the hottest cycle available, ensuring that the fabric your mask is made out of won't be at risk of shrinkage (cotton, linen, lycra, spandex, polyester). Masks should be washed after every use. If you have sensitive skin, using a fragrance-free detergent is totally fine. We recommend machine washing in a laundry bag to ensure your mask doesn't get too roughed up or worse - disappear as socks do.
If you are dealing with fabric that can't take the washing machine heat (silk or chiffon) or aren't doing laundry daily (which is how frequently we'd hope you'll be wearing a mask), you might need to turn to hand washing. In this case, it is recommended to take a stronger approach detergent wise. Look to a colour-safe, disinfectant bleach (not all are disinfectant) and prepare a bleach solution of 5 tablespoons bleach to 3 litres of water, or 4 teaspoons to 900mls of water - room temperature or cold, and soak in bleach mixture for 5 minutes, rinsing afterwards. If this sounds like too much of a mission, best to opt for heat-safe fabrics that can withstand machine washing and carry on as normal.
If you have a dryer and again are dealing with heat-safe fabric, feel free to throw your mask into the dryer until completely dry.
If you are air drying, lay mask flat in an aerated space (ideally in direct sunlight, but not essential) and let your mask dry completely before using. Masks are reportedly less effective when damp and should not be used until completely dry.
While there is not a massive amount of assurance regarding how long SARS-CoV-2 can stay alive of porous surfaces such as fabric, we recommend erring on the side of caution, for everyone's sake. You wouldn't wear a pair of underwear twice in a row (we hope) so giving your mask a similar treatment might be your best bet. If you can afford to, we recommend owning multiple masks so that you're sure to have a clean dry mask between washes.