Equally as important as wearing a face mask? Keeping your (reusable) face masks clean! We chatted with NYC board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rita V. Linkner, MD, who shared top mask hygiene tips that won’t irritate the delicate skin on your face. Steal her tricks, then shop the products you need for your deepest clean.
First, here’s how often to wash your masks:
“Ideally, you should wash a reusable face mask daily, as often as you would your bra or underwear,” says Dr. Linkner. If you don’t do a laundry load daily, be sure to handwash after each wear or have a few masks on rotation so that you’re wearing a clean one each day.
What kind of laundry detergent should I wash them with?
Because your mask touches the skin on your face, it’s important to opt for a detergent formula that’s free of harsh chemicals and additives. “Typically, if you have eczema- prone or sensitive skin, you should be shopping for laundry detergent that runs on the ‘free and clear’ spectrum; typically these are free of dyes, sulfates, and fragrance,” explains Dr. Linkner. Try our fragrance-free Signature Detergent Unscented (also gentler on acne-prone skin) or, if your skin is not reactive, our Signature Detergent.
What’s the best way to wash to ensure my masks are really clean?
“In terms of how to wash, realistically, whatever technique you can be most compliant with,” explains Dr. Linkner. I found hand-washing to be tedious and just decided to utilize the washing machine and air drying my fabric masks. With all the kids clothes I wash everyday, it just was a no brainer decision.”
Start with washing your hands. If you have any stains from, say, makeup, on your mask, treat them with our Wash & Stain Bar and a Stain Brush. If you have a washing machine at home, you can add your mask to a laundry load. Place masks in a Mesh Bag Bundle to protect elastic from snagging. Use the hottest water possible for the fabric content and add the appropriate amount of detergent such as Signature Detergent. You can also add 1 capful of All-Purpose Bleach Alternative to the hot water for an extra boost of clean. (Be sure to wash your hands again immediately after handling dirty laundry and masks!)
If you don’t have access to a washing machine, go ahead and hand wash your mask in a Wash Tub Basin or a clean sink. Before you start washing, remove dirt and grime from the sink—we like to use a powerful mixture with All-Purpose Bleach Alternative, All-Purpose Cleaning Concentrate and hot water.
Once you’ve cleaned the sink, make sure the drain is closed to keep the water afloat. Fill with hot water, add 1 capful or a squirt of Signature Detergent, then gently agitate the water with your hands to create a soapy solution. You can also add 1 capful of All-Purpose Bleach Alternative to the hot water for an extra boost of clean. Now let that sit for 30 minutes.
Rinse under hot water until rinse water is no longer soapy. Do not wring. Instead, gently squeeze between your palms or press against the side of the sink.
Lay your mask flat to dry to preserve the integrity of the elastic. Bonus points for placing it outside in the sun, which will provide it with some bacteria-busting benefits. If you’re using a bandana, handkerchief, or scarf made of cotton or durable synthetics (no elastic) you may place in the dryer.
Is there a good way to refresh my face mask during the day?
We love to stash one of our Fabric Fresh Sprays in our bags to revive our masks throughout the day. Not only do they have a nice, clean scent that’s not overbearing, they are made with ingredients with antibacterial properties. Just keep in mind that these should be used on reusable, fabric masks only, not disposable ones. “Disposable masks are not amenable to sprays like fabric ones are,” says Dr. Linkner. “I would NOT advocate for using a spray on a disposable mask as it could compromise the integrity of its filtration system.” (Ed note: Disposable masks should not be washed, either. They should be worn once and replaced with a new one.)
When it comes to reusable, cloth face masks, are some fabrics better for skin than others?
“Cotton fabrics are ideal,” says Dr. Linkner. “Least irritating. Remember, we aren't used to having cloth against our faces, so opt for fabric that makes sense—think of what materials your underwear/bras are when choosing what material your mask should be made of.”