Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection issued a recommendation that everyone should wear a face mask when going out in public during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, experts suggested that only medical professionals interacting with patients or individuals who were infected with coronavirus or other diseases should wear a face mask outside the home. While medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) should still be reserved for doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, Americans should strongly consider wearing fabric masks when grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy, or visiting a doctor—you can easily make your own face masks out of fabric and elastic, or you can fold a bandana or old T-shirt into a mask using rubber bands as straps. “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining six-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. [The CDC] is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others,” says the CDC in a statement.
How often should you wash your face mask to avoid spreading the virus? According to Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, there are no strict guidelines for how often you should wash your face mask. However, if you wear it regularly to the grocery store or pharmacy, then experts recommend washing your face mask once a week. “A weekly wash should be fine if it’s not soiled,” Dr. Schaffner told TODAY.
However, you should wash your mask immediately after being in contact with someone who is symptomatic, says Dr. Nathan Favini, medical lead of Forward, a primary care practice in San Francisco. To wash a fabric face mask, launder it in your washing machine using the hottest water possible in order to rid it of any potential germs.
“The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders,” the CDC’s website states, but wearing a cloth face covering while in public and washing it regularly can help protect you from catching or spreading germs.