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Proper Care for Cloth Face Masks: Making, Washing, & Maintaining

May 07, 2020

Proper Care for Cloth Face Masks: Making, Washing, & Maintaining

Written by Stacey Kelleher. Reviewed by Sean Busch.


At Puracy, we’re passionate about your health and safety. That’s why we wanted to clear up some confusion about one topic that affects us all: face masks. 

Depending on where you live and work, cloth masks are either required or recommended for use in public settings. For the average person who doesn’t work in the medical field, these items  are an affordable, convenient, and practical way to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Who Should Wear a Face Mask? 

Proper masks help reduce the spread of viruses, especially when people are asymptomatic and can’t know if they’re contagious. In community settings (like grocery stores and pharmacies), the CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 2 wears some type of face cloth that covers their nose and mouth.

who should wear face masks

Note: If you’re showing any symptoms of COVID-19, you must self-quarantine under a doctor’s guidance.

Who Should Not Wear a Face Mask?

According to the CDC, the following people should not use face masks

  • Children under the age of 2
  • People who are incapacitated or unconscious
  • Those with breathing problems
  • A person who is unable to remove their mask on their own

Does Social Distancing Apply if I Wear a Face Mask?

face mask social distancing

Yes. Wearing a cloth face cover is just one of several ways we can all help “flatten the curve.” Even with a face mask, you should maintain a distance of six feet from other people outside of your home.

Along with “social distancing” and covering your nose and mouth with a mask, it’s extremely helpful to wash/sanitize hands and clean and disinfect high-touch areas of your home frequently.

Should I Wear a Face Mask During Exercise? 

That depends on where you’re working out. As public gyms reopen in the months ahead, face masks will likely be required for some time.

Experts believe that the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission while exercising outside is unlikely. So solo jog around your own neighborhood (where you’re unlikely to encounter many other people) probably doesn’t require a mask. 

If you’re exercising outdoors in more populated community parks and neighborhoods, however, a mask is a good idea – but more for “policy and politeness than viral spread.”

Cloth face masks can collect moisture and make it more challenging to breathe when running or biking. Experiment with different materials to find one that is not only comfortable, but also offers good breathability as well. 

Will My Face Mask Protect Me from COVID-19?  

Medical workers require specific personal protective equipment (PPE) because of their increased risk exposure to COVID-19. N95 respirators and surgical masks should be reserved for these essential frontline workers and patients in healthcare settings.

The main purpose of cloth face masks is to keep normal civilians from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. If we happen to be infected with COVID-19, cloth masks should contain most of the respiratory droplets generated from coughing or sneezing. 

For those of us who don’t require advanced PPE, the CDC mask guidelines are as follows: 

  • Be secured with ties or ear loops 
  • Consist of multiple layers of fabric 
  • Fit snugly and comfortably against the face, covering the nose and mouth completely. 
  • Never restrict breathing 
  • Withstand washing without damage or losing their shape
how to wear a cloth face mask

Instructions to Make a DIY Face Mask

Right now, it can be challenging to get the products and supplies we need for our homes. The good news? You can make a face mask with a few items you probably already have on hand. 

The Easiest No-Sew Face Mask

DIY face mask

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How to Sew a Face Mask

how to sew a face mask

The Best Materials for a Face Mask 

Some materials make better masks than others. Choose fabrics that are breathable but dense enough to contain droplets from the nose and mouth. 

A good rule of thumb is to hold your fabric up to a light. If you can easily see light through the fibers, it’s probably too porous to be made into an effective mask. 

A group of researchers in Illinois evaluated different types of readily-available materials. Of all the fabrics tested for face masks, the most effective were: 

  1. 2 layers of cotton quilt  
  2. Quilter’s cotton #80 
  3. Flannel (with a 65% cotton / 35% polyester blend)

Filtration abilities increase with each added layer of fabric. And though satin and chiffon are easier to breathe through, the study determined that they offered minimal filtration when compared to denser materials like cotton quilt and quilter’s cotton. The upside? Now you have a new use for those old t-shirts, pillowcases, and flannel pajamas!  

What Filters Can Be Used in Face Masks?

Some people opt for additional protection by inserting filters into DIY face masks. Before you do, there are some things you should know about making cloth mask filters

Missouri University of Science and Technology graduate students evaluated different types of masks and filters for effectiveness. The team discovered that allergy-reducing HVAC filters were most effective at filtering out airborne particles. 

Experts also recommend HEPA filters for face masks, like those found in air conditioners and other household appliances. Coffee filters offered reasonable protection, but not as much as the options mentioned above. 

That said, if you use a HEPA filter, ensure that it’s secured between layers of fabric. Many HEPA filters for vacuum cleaners contain fiberglass which is dangerous when inhaled.  

Note: Never reuse a filter if it cannot be washed. 

Where Can I Donate Face Masks?

donate face masks

If you have the time and supplies to make cloth face coverings, consider donating them to friends, neighbors, and non-healthcare frontline workers who may need them. Healthcare staff depend on PPE that offers greater protection from pathogens (especially surgical masks and N95 respirators). Contact your local medical facility if you want to learn more about donating PPE. 

How Long Does COVID-19 Last on Fabric?

At the time of publication, the CDC has confirmed that COVID-19 is typically transmitted from person-to-person contact. Researchers are still working to understand how the novel coronavirus is transmitted to people who touch surfaces containing the virus. 

We know COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours and 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. Not much is currently known, however, about how long novel coronavirus lives on fabric. Until we learn more, it’s best to be proactive and wash cloth masks frequently to remove pathogens.

COVID-19 on surfaces

How to Wash Cloth Face Masks

The recommended way to kill germs on face masks is by machine-washing in hot water. Your preferred laundry detergent should be just fine for washing cloth face masks, especially when combined with the following tips: 

  • Remove elastic ties or bands before washing no-sew masks. 
  • Put masks in the dryer or use a hair blow dryer, both on the hottest settings.
  • Do not microwave or boil masks in water. 

For hand-washing delicate/hand-stitched masks, thoroughly scrub them for at least 20 seconds with soap, hot water, and a laundry brush. Rinse with hot water and follow with air-drying. 

How Often Do I Need to Wash My Face Mask? 

Ideally, you should wash cloth face masks after every use. Frontline workers – or those who are unable to socially distance – should put on clean masks every few hours. You’ll extend the wear of each mask by only touching it with washed or properly sanitized hands. 

If you’re away from home for hours, your face masks will likely be worn for that entire time. Since many popular laundry detergents irritate sensitive skin, take that into consideration when choosing yours.

 Use Puracy Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin

Puracy natural laundry detergent

Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent is gentle yet effective, thanks to a formula that's free of harsh chemicals, allergens, sulfates, and dyes. For your cloth masks, we recommend a hot water setting with an extra rinse cycle. It’s safe to wash your face mask with your other clothing.

Note: The powerful plant enzymes in Puracy Laundry Detergent (and other enzyme-based cleaners) are destroyed in water temperatures over 212ºF. If you have a steam-sanitizing washing machine, check your water temps to maintain the effectiveness of these natural cleansers. 

Puracy Is Here For You During This Time of Uncertainty 

We know you’re taking extra precautions to protect your family. That’s why Puracy is working around the clock to ensure you have the natural home products and hand sanitizers you need to stay healthy.

Learn more about what we’re doing to get new orders out quickly and how we’re stepping up manufacturing to replenish the products you depend on. 

For more tips on navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, check out these earlier posts: 

Coronavirus + Quarantine: Your Guide to Remote Working

How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home: Limiting Coronavirus Exposure

The Most Virus- and Germ-Laden Spots in Your Home (and How to Clean and Disinfect Them)

    Natural Laundry Detergent

    Safe for sensitive skin & 10x concentrated to last. Eliminates stains, odors, sweat, and dirt from 96 full loads of the dirtiest laundry.

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    Natural Laundry Detergent



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