Over the past 12 months, face masks have joined our phones, wallets, and keys in the group of items that we simply cannot leave the house without. Seeing as they serve as a protective barrier, many can’t help but question: how and when should you wash your face mask for optimal hygiene? In an effort to save you some time and avoid the dreaded ‘mask-ne’ (acne or breakouts from repeated use of facial masks), we have done all the research for you and have compiled the answers to a few commonly asked questions related to facial coverings.

What do you need to wash a mask?

If using a washing machine:

  • Natural, unscented laundry detergent. Avoid detergents with harsh chemicals or too many perfumes.
  • Warm water setting on your washer 

If washing by hand:

  • 1/3 cup of household bleach per gallon of water
  • Room temperature water in a clean sink or bucket 

    How do you wash a mask? 

    Washing machine:

    • Use a natural, unscented laundry detergent and your washer’s warm water setting. If you would like, you can include your face mask with your regular laundry to save some time
    • Once the washing cycle is complete, place in the dryer until completely dry or lay flat and allow your mask(s) to air dry (if possible, place the mask in direct sunlight).

      By hand:

      • Prepare a bleach solution by mixing 1/3 cup of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water.
      • Soak your mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
      • Rinse completely with cool or room temperature water.
      • Once the washing cycle is complete, leave in the dryer until completely dry or lay flat and allow the fabric to air dry (if possible, place the mask in direct sunlight).

        How often should masks be washed?

        The CDC recommends that you wash face masks after each use. If possible, invest in several masks to allow you to wear a clean one each day of the week and then wash all at once to conserve resources.

        How do I protect my skin? 

        Wearing a mask for extended periods of time may irritate the skin. Minimizing this risk begins by choosing the right mask from the start. By choosing a mask made of a breathable material such as cotton, you can help can minimize the trapping of sweat and oil. If you find that your skin is still irritated, Andrew Alexis, M.D., MPH, and professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, recommends “…applying hydrocortisone cream, which can provide rapid relief of the discomfort” and taking mask breaks if possible. Here at PIP, we recommend washing your mask regularly and washing your face both at morning and night with a gentle cleanser and warm water. If you struggle with acne or ‘mask-ne’, please contact your PCP or a dermatologist about what treatments may be best for you.

        With these frequently asked questions answered, you’ll have clean face masks available for any occasion! Although Governor Abbott has removed the state-wide mask mandate, Premier Independent Physicians will continue to require that patients, providers, and employees wear masks while inside any clinic. The extra precaution of wearing a face mask will limit exposure to the virus including its new variants, even if someone is vaccinated. For more updates, keep up with us on social media!