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One Terrible Mistake You Shouldn't Make With Your Face Mask

Read this before you destroy your first line of defense against COVID-19.

You're likely well aware that wearing a face mask is your single most effective defense against the coronavirus. (If not, see here.) Wearing a covering over your mouth and nose is not only best for your safety, it's also best for the safety of other people around you. Given that this little 9-by-6 inch piece of fabric could indeed save your life, it begs the question: Are you giving your face mask the TLC it deserves in return?

Any mask that isn't disposable requires regular cleaning and maintenance after every wear—and, yes, there are wrong ways to go about it. For starters, you shouldn't use cold water. (Only hot.) You shouldn't use too much bleach, either. (But a little is fine. More on that later.) However, there's one face-mask mistake that rises above all in the category of bad ideas: You should never clean your mask by putting it in the microwave.

Now, I can see why you might actually want to. (Seriously, no judgment.) Hospitals sterilize their equipment with high-heat UV-C rays, and study after study has shown that sunshine and extreme temperatures do indeed destroy COVID-19 particles with incredible efficacy. But, putting your cloth mask—even worse if it has metal parts—in the same appliance you use to pop a bag of Orville Redenbacher is way dangerous.

Here's why:



At best, microwaving your cloth mask will ruin the mask by charring the fabric, melting it, and rendering it useless. At worst? You'll set fire to your home.

Nuking a mask that has any metal components is actually far worse, as microwaving metal causes sparks that may destroy your microwave and start a fire.

If you wish to clean your mask the right way, the CDC makes it crystal clear how you can do so: Simply throw it into your washing machine. The guidelines say it's OK to include with any regular load and to use any of your typical detergent. Just remember to use the warmest appropriate water setting.

If you need to wash your mask by hand, the CDC recommends using a bleach solution that includes 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water (or 4 teaspoons household bleach per quart of room temperature water). Afterward, soak the face-covering in the bleach solution for 5 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with room-temperature water.

After washing your reusable cloth mask, it's important to avoid wearing it again until it's completely dry. The CDC recommends using the highest heat setting on your dryer and leaving it in there until it's completely dry. If at all possible, place the cloth face-covering in direct sunlight. If not, just make sure it doesn't find its way into the microwave. And for more, make sure to sign up for our newsletter to keep yourself informed on the latest coronavirus news.

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