How to store your face mask hygienically
From washing hacks to chic travel cases, here's how to care for your face mask, keeping it fresh and clean between uses
The lifting of lockdown has made us all more mobile again, and now our next challenge is figuring out how to store our face masks hygienically while we’re out and about – something that our neighbours on the continent can help us with, given they've been wearing theirs with effortless dexterity for longer.
Here are some tips for applying, removing, washing and storing your face masks, now they’re a part of everyday life.
How to apply and remove your face mask
Wearing a face mask becomes a bit redundant if you don’t apply or remove it properly. By now, many of us have experienced the guilty horror of scrambling to put on our mask while out in public, only to realise we’ve touched every inch of our face in the process. Lisa Maragakis, a senior director of infection, shared with Hopkins Medicine her five simple steps for taking off a face mask. She said:
- Firstly, wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60 per cent alcohol.
- Remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom ones first, then the top ones.
- Be careful not to touch the front of the mask or your face in the process.
- If your mask has filters, remove them and throw them away. Fold the mask and place it in the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering.
- Lastly, wash your hands again.
Remember to familiarise yourself with your mask in advance so that you know how to apply it safely in public. If you’re wearing a surgical mask, make sure the hard part of the covering is at the top so that it can take the shape of your nose and face. The softer part should be at the bottom.
How many face masks should you have?
Now that face masks have become a part of our everyday lives, owning just one may not be enough – especially with the advice from health professionals being to wash them after every use. What’s more, different situations may require different types of face mask. While the fashion and eco-conscious among us have invested in reusable coverings of our choosing, as Culture Whisper’s founder Eleonore Dresch recently found out, certain airlines including Air France only authorise surgical masks. Institutions with strict rules may supply masks to their customers who arrive without, but it would be risky to rely on this. To be on the safe side, it’s worth investing in at least two reusable masks and having a box of disposable ones to fall back on, too.
Where to store your mask while out
‘In Milan, you constantly wear your mask on the streets and in the shops. You even take it out when you sit at a café. If you’re in an environment where you feel safe and comfortable taking it off, the trick is to hoist your mask up your sleeve and around your elbow where it’s easy to grab,’ explains Milan local Alessandro.
Another option is to store your face mask in your pocket or bag if you want to remove it while out – but it’s important your mask stays clean if you’re planning on wearing it again. Leaving it loose in your handbag will expose it to the bacteria clinging to whatever else you have in there – all of which could be transferred to your face when you next apply the mask. Instead, carry around a disposable bag to safely stash it away, or better yet, invest in a small cosmetics bag.
CW picks: 1. Liberty London Small Far Away Paisley wash bag, £20 – buy here. 2. Rains Small wash bag, was £25, now £10 – buy here. 3. Ganni Floral-print Small wash bag, was £65, now £39 – buy here. 4. Paravel See All Canvas vanity case, £105 – buy here. 5. Anya Hindmarch Girlie Stuff leather-trimmed shell cosmetics case, £110 – buy here. 6. Baggu 3D Zip Set in Daisy, was £40, now £30 – buy here.
How to wash your face mask
With the advice from medical professionals being to wash your face mask between each use in order to avoid germs and bacteria collecting on the cloth, it’s important to know how to do it hygienically. If you’re in the routine of putting on a machine wash each night, throw your mask in with it. Otherwise, you can easily handwash your mask using hot water and some detergent, giving it a gentle scrub.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends preparing a bleach solution (using five tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water at room temperature, ensuring the bleach is intended for disinfection), and soaking the face mask in the solution for five minutes. It should then be rinsed thoroughly with cool water and left to dry completely before being worn again.
The bottom line is, whether you opt to machine- or hand-wash yours, try to get into the habit of cleaning your face mask each time you return from the outside world, as you do your hands.