There are different ways on how to sterilize a face mask. You can hand wash it, use a washing machine, or even boiling the mask works to kill germs and viruses. Make sure that you clean and sterilize the face masks after every use to eliminate germs and viruses that stick into the masks.
When it comes to sterilizing a mask, there are different methods that you can do, like putting it in a washer or using hot water and bleach solution. It all depends on the kind of face mask that you are using. Also, you need to consider the material of the face mask to make sure that it will not get damaged.
This article does not contain any product recommendations. If you are interested in purchasing face masks, here’s our buying guide with products.
There are some things that you need to consider when sterilizing a face mask. The masks must not get damaged while being sterilized. There are face masks made from materials that can easily get damaged when using the wrong method of sterilizing. To help you sanitize and care for your masks, we have shared different ways and tips that you can follow.
One of the easiest ways to sterilize the face masks is to let them sit in boiling water for five minutes. It can effectively kill germs and bacteria. On the other hand, a few rounds of boiling can damage the face mask or affect its breathability. Check the material of the mask before boiling. According to Rachel Noble, a microbiologist and professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Cloth face masks are going to have a lifetime—they deteriorate the same way your bedsheets fall apart wash, after wash, after wash.”
To make sure that the mask retains its function after boiling, you will need to inspect it. Hold the mask up to a light source and check for any thin area wherein a small hole might be forming. Take note that viruses are so small that they can slip right through any lose-woven or damaged fabric. To err on the side of caution, Noble recommends not boiling the mask more than ten times.
A fast and convenient way to sterilize a face mask is by using a washing machine. Cloth masks are handmade and featured ear loops or straps. To avoid tangling, place them inside a mesh bag. You can also use a pillowcase if you do not have one. Your favorite detergent will be enough to leave your masks ready for another use. Pay attention to the temperature of the water because it is an added layer of protection in killing viruses.
Water heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is effective in killing most viruses. Both the UK’s National Health Service and the World Health Organization recommend this temperature when it comes to treating contaminated fabrics and clothes. There are some modern washing machines equipped with internal water heaters that can push water beyond 120 degrees.
✅ Video – How To Clean Fabric Face Masks
The video below shared by HuffPost Canada tackles how to wash a face mask using a washing machine or by hand. Watch the video below for more tips and information.
Hot Water and Bleach Solution
Another method that you can use is hot water and bleach solution. Soak the face masks for five minutes in a solution of one teaspoon bleach for every quart of hot water. Temperature does not matter because the bleach will do the sanitation, but it can be an extra layer of security. Be careful when choosing a bleach product. Using a higher concentration of bleach or leftover corrosive chemical on the fabric after soaking can damage the mask.
You will be wearing the face mask directly over your nose and mouth, so make sure that it is clear of bleach when you put it on. Inhaling any residual fumes can damage your airways and also worsen any respiratory condition. To remove any leftover bleach, rinse it under a tap for ten to fifteen seconds at any temperature. After that, soak it in clean water for another fifteen minutes.
You can also check out this article that tackles if polyester is a good material for a face mask. We have shared tips and information about polyester that you need to know.
Steps for Sterilizing a Cloth Face Mask
According to Tania Elliott MD, an immunologist and national spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, it is ideal for cleaning cloth masks after every use. They can be machine washed or hand washed. Wear disposable gloves and keep the masks away from your face when washing. Below are the steps on how to sterilize cloth masks.
- For masks with pockets that hold a removable non-woven filter, make sure to remove the filter before washing. When using a folded bandana or scarf that has detachable elastic bands, remove those as well.
- If you are using a washing machine, a mesh laundry bag is an ideal way to keep the masks from tangling. The mesh bag can also go directly from the washer to the dryer.
- Sort the masks by color and do not wash colored masks with white masks or clothes unless you are sure that the fabric is colorfast.
- Set the water temperature on the washer to hot and the cycle to normal. If you are doing hand washing, fill the sink with hot water.
- Use heavy detergent that contains enough enzymes to break down soil and sweat on the interior surface of the mask. For hand washing, add one teaspoon of detergent to the basin of water before adding the masks.
- When rinsing, you can use warm or cold water.
- Dry the cloth masks on the highest heat cycle in an automatic dryer. If you do not have a dryer, put the masks on a drying rack in direct sunlight.
Check out this article about the best cloth face masks that you can purchase. We have shared a list of products that you can choose from. Also, we shared tips on how to purchase the right product from online stores.
✅ Video – How to Sterilize Cloth Face Mask
Belinda shares the video below on her YouTube channel. She tackles how to sterilize cloth face masks according to the CDC guidelines. She is using laundry detergent and bleach in hand washing the face mask. Check out the video below for the demonstration.
Sterilizing Face Mask Filters
If your masks have filter inserts, you also need to sterilize them before using them. Most filter inserts are disposable and intended for single use only. It is best to replace them after every use. Good Housekeeping shared these tips on how to sterilize face mask filters.
These filters are disposable products and are not washable. Replace them after every use.
They are washable, but manufacturers warn that they are not for single use. If you decide to sew the filters between cotton fabrics, wash them in hot water and tumble dried on high heat. On the other hand, keep in mind that the effectiveness will decrease with each wash.
Medium Weight Non-Woven Interface
This fabric is washable. Wash with hot water in the washing machine, and tumble dry on high heat. For delicate fabrics, you can wash by hand. Lather masks with soap and scrub for at least twenty seconds with warm to hot water before tossing in the dryer.
You can also check this article about the best washable reusable face masks that are sold on the market. To help you get started, we have shared the best products that you can ourchase.
Sterilizing N95 and KN95 Face Masks
It is essential to do proper cleaning and sterilization of the N95 and KN95 face masks. Eliminate the virus without compromising the filtration and fit of the mask. The Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons list a few fundamental principles for effectively cleaning face masks. Below are the several decontamination methods for inactivating the COVID-19 virus that show promise.
Note: The CDC or the mask manufacturers endorse none of these methods. On the other hand, due to the severity of the current crisis, they may be helpful.
Decontamination Using Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide
Researchers at the Duke Health studied sterilizing N95 face mask using vaporized hydrogen peroxide. Using specialized equipment found in their laboratory, they have successfully decontaminated N95 face masks. The vaporized hydrogen peroxide was able to permeate the mask layers and kill microbes without damaging the mask. However, not every hospital has this technology available for them, and it cannot be done at home.
Decontaminating N95 Masks Using Heat
A study performed by the University of Tennessee performed tests with the use of heat and suggested that heating a mask at 70 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes can provide decontamination while preserving filter integrity.
Avoid the Following Methods
These inventions entered the market in the form of boxes or wands to sanitize electronics. Some people use them to sanitize face masks, but keep in mind that they may not be effective. The reason for this is that the face mask has nooks and crannies of material folds. Also, UV sanitizers are built for electronics and other small personal items and not necessarily for items made of cloth or other soft materials.
Some people are using microwaves to heat or sanitize masks and filters. On the other hand, healthcare professionals state the added risks of cross-contamination. Open containers of food placed in the microwave daily, which can be contaminated when you use the same microwave in sterilizing the masks.
We have also written this article that tackles sterilize a face mask in a microwave. Check out the article for more information.
The New Hampshire State Fire Marshall Office is urging the local not to use microwaves when sterilizing face masks. They have posted two photos of charred masks which said to have come from residents who tried to sterilize their masks at a microwave.
✅ Photo – Microwaving Masks to Kill Germs is a Fire Hazard
The photo below shared by the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office shows burned face masks. According to them, microwaving face masks to kill germs is a fire hazard because they can overheat and catch fire. Moreover, disposable masks also have a metal nose wire that can cause sparks. They recommend sterilizing masks with the use of detergent in a washing machine.
Take note that diluted or fully concentrated alcohol is not ideal when it comes to sterilizing face masks or filters. Alcohol is too harsh on these materials and will cause the filter to dry out and lose its function. It is best to use alcohol-free formulas.
Can I Sanitize Disposable Masks?
Disposable masks made from non-woven fibers, N95, and KN95 masks cannot be sanitized at home. The reason for this is that exposure to excessive amounts of water and cleaning products will destroy the fibers of the masks and can also damage its carbon filtration system. According to the CDC, they can be worn up to five times by the same person. However, there are exceptions, such as if the mask used in specific medical procedures, heavily soiled, or damaged.
We have also written this article that tackles the best neoprene face masks. We have gathered a list of the best products that you can ourchase online.
Can Disposable Medical Face Masks Be Sterilized and Reused?
According to WHO, you cannot sterilize or reuse disposable medical face masks as they are for a single-use only. After use, they should be removed and disposed of properly in a waste bin with a lid.
We have also written this article that tackles activated carbon face masks and filter inserts. Check out the article to find out more about the topic and for a list of products that you can choose from.
Can You Wash KN95 or KN5 Masks?
No, you cannot wash these kinds of face masks. Also, do not wash them in soapy water or spray with liquid or aerosol alcohol. A study performed by Doctor Tsai of UT Knoxville showed significant reductions in mask filtration efficiency when cleaned with alcohol or soapy water.
There are different ways and methods on how to sterilize a face mask but make sure that the face mask will not get damaged when sterilizing it. Consider the material of the face mask. Most homemade face masks are from cloth, and fabric can be sterilized and disinfected with detergent, bleach, and hot water on a washing machine. However, surgical, KN95, and N95 masks are more complicated to sterilize. Consider the methods that we have shared above when sterilizing your face masks. Thank you for reading!