The main advantage of a face mask made out of fabric is that you can wash and reuse it. But how do you do that without running the risk of infecting yourself? And when do you know that you better buy a new cloth mask?

Reuse saves us a lot of waste. But it also means you have to wash and dry. In the case of mouth masks, there are a few pinches involved.

It all starts with the first time you use a new mask. After you have removed the packaging, it must immediately be washed in the washing machine. Whether the mask comes in a plastic package or not, there is always a chance that it has come into contact with the virus during production or transportation. And just as with other intimate textiles, common sense also says: the washing machine.

The recommended program is one at 60 degrees for at least 30 minutes with regular detergent. Because most household washing machines that do not last for half an hour at 60 degrees, it is better to put the masks in the cooking wax. It is also recommended to wash them separately. But that does create a practical problem.

Masks are thin and relatively small pieces of fabric. To fill a washing machine with it, you should easily save a week – which is not recommended because you keep masks on which bacterial growth can take place. That is why you should wash them together with a bath towel, so that there is guaranteed sufficient mechanical movement and the washing program can do its work. It is always best to use the same towel for this – and only for washing masks.

Drying is possible via a normal program in the dryer. Or outside in the sun. If it happens to be there. Washed and unused masks are best kept in a dry place, far from air, light, moisture and possible sources of contamination – such as hands.

Well, we now have a mask ready to use. We have already discussed how to take it on and off. But after taking off, the next important step follows: you throw the used mask in a closed washing bucket. Don’t wait too long to empty that bucket and wash the masks. Wash your hands after emptying the bucket and throwing the masks into machine. And disinfect the bucket – it could also contain a virus.

How often you can repeat this process will depend on the type of fabric from which the mask is made. Remember that cotton is a fabric that gets “washed out” fairly quickly. The fibers are thinned with each wash until there are possible holes in the fabric. The number of washes is likely to be higher for polyester. But above all, check what the manufacturer writes about the number of washes in its user instructions. The Alsico Mask is made from 100% polyester and may reach 100 washes. This is good news for the environment – provided you wash on green electricity – as well as for your wallet – because the mask gets cheaper with every wear.

Nevertheless, you are advised not to go too far in that reuse. A mask with holes may be more risky than no mask – because of the false sense of security. Hence the wise advice in our user instructions to check before the mask that there are no cracks or holes. That small inspection ensures that you go out into the street with your safe and well-functioning mask.

If a defect appears, do not recover. You will not get back the original effect of the material. In that case, wash the broken mask one last time and keep it for recycling. But more about that in a next post.

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