Not a replacement for social distancing, face masks are intended to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
Studies have supported the idea that face coverings can trap exhaled particles from the wearer to keep them from entering the air. That's an important step, especially because many people who have COVID-19 may be asymptomatic.
If you have disposable masks — the kind you often see doctors wearing — you can simply throw them away after each use. But what if you have a few cloth masks? How do you safely wash and store them?
The World Health Organization provides very specific instructions on how to safely put on and take off a mask.
Whichever type of mask you have, when you remove it, be sure not to touch your face. Remove the mask by its strings or ear loops, touching only those parts; never touch the mask material itself. Remove and throw away the filter if your mask has one. Fold the mask so that the front comes together, then wash your hands immediately after.
If you're using a cloth face covering, you should wash it after each use. Toss it in with your regular laundry and detergent using the warmest appropriate water setting for the type of cloth your mask is made from.
You can also wash it by hand. A solution of household bleach and water, works well. Soak your mask in the solution for five minutes and rinse thoroughly.
After washing, you can dry your mask in the dryer on high heat or in direct sunlight.
When it comes to storing masks, you should keep them in a clean place when you're not wearing them. A zip-close bag is perfect.
Considering you may need to clean and dry your mask after each outing, you probably want to have more than one.