By now you know that wearing a cloth mask or other face protection is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to slow the spread of the virus causing COVID-19. You also likely have a growing collection of reusable masks hanging out at home, in your car, your bag, and more. But is that mask that’s been floating around in your car for the last few months still doing its job to protect you? Probably not.
Cloth masks lend themselves well to being reused again and again, but to do so safely, storing them properly is key. In this article, we’ll give you practical and easy-to-implement tips for ensuring your stash of masks are stored safely and effectively, so that they can continue to help slow the spread of the pandemic.
How to Remove Your Mask
Before we get into how you should be storing your masks, let’s cover the basics of how to remove a mask properly. The CDC advises that you remove the mask by its ear loops (or by untying its strings), making sure not to touch the front of the mask or your eyes, nose, and mouth while you do so. Wash your hands well afterwards. By following these steps, you can avoid any virus particles that may have landed on the outside of your mask from getting inside your body.
How and Where to Keep Your Mask
If you want to reuse your mask, fold the corners of your mask together (do not touch the outer surface of your mask) so that the outer surface faces inward and against itself to minimize contact with the storage container. Afterwards, place it in a clean, resealable bag, case or container. You can use a breathable container, which allows the exchange of air with the outside to prevent bacterial growth and odor on your mask. When ready to reuse your mask, remove the mask from the container by its ear loops or strings.
Where to Keep Your Mask At Home
When you get home from work or after running errands, it’s a good idea to keep your mask in a clean, resealable bag or container in a designated place. Be sure to also resist the temptation to simply put your mask back in it’s bag day after day. Both your mask, and the bag you store it in, should be washed regularly to eradicate any germs that you may have come into contact with while outside.
Where to Keep Your Mask While On the Go
What if you’re out and about and you need to remove your mask and store it for a while? Many of us may have been tempted to wear it around our arm or stash it in our bag or in the glove compartment or cup holder in our car. However, these actions could cause any virus particles that may have landed on your mask to spread to other surfaces. If you then touched one of these surfaces and touched your face soon after, the virus could get into your body.
Instead, make a point to keep a clean, resealable bag or container with you (e.g. in your purse or backpack) whenever you leave home. It’s also a good idea to have a dedicated, resealable bag or container in your car. That way, you will be able to store your mask safely whenever you need to remove it temporarily, such as when engaging in vigorous exercise; eating or drinking at a restaurant; and when driving by yourself or with members of your household.
Keeping your cloth masks in a clean, resealable container or bag, when used with other good practices such as cleaning your masks properly every day, are key for safely reusing your masks.