Most countries around the world have mandated the use of face masks for everyone if you decide to leave the house- and Nigeria is no different. Surgical masks and N95/ KN-95 respirators are supposed to be used by frontline workers.
There are recommendations to use fabric/ cloth face masks, which are non-medical masks, in areas where social distancing is difficult (like pharmacies, supermarkets,) as they are readily available, reusable and more affordable.
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In addition to these advantages, it is important to note that these masks are worn to protect other people. These fabric masks do not prevent the transmission of the virus, but they can help in slowing the spread of the virus and may help prevent the transmission of the virus by people who do not know they have it.
Fabric/ Cloth face masks are reusable, but how can you make sure to keep them clean?
You need to make sure that the face mask is properly cleaned after each use. Water is a common factor in keeping your masks clean.
When water is heated to 60 degrees Celsius, it will break down most viruses. The World Health Organization and the UK’s National Health Service recommend this temperature for treating contaminated clothes and fabrics.
Using a washing machine
Popping your mask(s) in the machine, with the right amount of soap and water (preferably heated to at least 60 degrees Celsius) alongside other clothes worn outside is a good way to clean your mask.
To add an extra touch, you can add a laundry booster like chlorine or bleach.
Soak in bleach and water
If you don’t have enough clothes to load your machine or want to quickly wash a couple of masks, soak in a mix of 1 teaspoon of bleach to up to 1 litre of water (hot water will give an added layer of protection) to sanitize your face mask. It is necessary that you do not use a high quantity of bleach because of the smell which could be toxic when inhaled for a long time.
Rinse off with clean water for 10-15 seconds to get off the bleach and its stench. You can go the extra mile by soaking in clean water for 5-10 minutes to make sure the smell of the bleach is totally gone.
Make sure to air dry your mask(s) after washing.
The Boiling Method
This is not a highly advocated method, but it is effective in sanitizing the mask. This is because boiling the mask can cause the fabric to disintegrate faster than it should. To use this method, place the mask in the water at boiling temperature for 5 minutes.
If you decide to use this method, do not use this more than ten times per fabric mask, overall.
After sanitizing your cloth masks using any of these methods, make sure to store them in a clean, cool place when they have been dried properly. Where available, store in a dry zipped-up bag to prevent cross-contamination.
Give The Mask Time
Similar viruses in the Coronavirus family (such as the Influenza virus) have been found to be non-viable after 5 hours. Hence, leaving your mask without use for 5 hours may get rid of the virus.
However, this is not advised as other substances such as dust, grime will not be dealt with. This should be a last resort
Just as there are right ways to clean your face masks, there are certain methods and substances that you should avoid as much as is possible:
Heating In a microwave oven
Considering the fact that the microwave oven is used for all kinds of food in your home, there is a chance of cross-contamination which may mean that the face mask to be less hygienic than it should be.
Alcohol is great in killing germs, when used in the right concentration and the right surfaces, such as in alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
However, dilute or concentrated alcohol (such as methylated spirit) is too harsh on fabric and can reduce their efficiency. Alcohol should not be used in cleaning cloth face masks.
When using a face mask, remember to follow other preventive measures including:
- Maintaining clean hands by washing hands with soap and water regularly or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching the mask or any part of your face.
- Maintain physical distancing as much as possible.
- Take only essential trips outside your home.
The use of face masks is highly advocated. However, you must ensure that the mask being used is clean. If it is not, the purpose is defeated.
Make sure to follow the right procedures to ensure your face masks are always cleaned and properly stored before use.