For better or worse, face masks are part of your everyday carry for trips to the grocery store and other errands now, and many people are still getting used to them. For instance, what are you supposed to do with the thing once you get home? Here's how to wash your face mask after using it, because there are some definite dos and don'ts in this realm. Thankfully, caring for and sanitizing your face mask is super simple.
First, though, consider the reason so many people are wearing face masks in public during this phase of the quarantine. "The rationale for covering your face is primarily to contain your own respiratory secretions when you cough, sneeze, have a runny nose, or breathe heavily, so that if you are an asymptomatic carrier or in the early stages of infection, you don’t infect someone else," Dr. Georgine Nanos, M.D., MPH, tells Romper.
Basically, it's a way to keep your germs (and hopefully viruses) to yourself. "When someone wears a face mask, they are protecting you from them," as Dr. Erum Ilyas, M.D., tells Romper. "It works ideally from a community perspective when all are wearing them since we are all protecting each other from ourselves."
In this light, wearing a face mask is an act of tremendous kindness and consideration for others with very real outcomes. "We are talking lives here. We need to limit the spread of the disease. You wearing a mask saves lives. You’re a hero if you wear a mask and perform social distancing," Dr. Shannon Sovndal, M.D., tells Romper. "Be a hero!"
However, helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 also means cleaning the mask regularly, something that wasn't necessarily a big concern for many people before the outbreak. In other words, researchers and medical professionals are still figuring it out, too. "Sterilizing masks is an area of active research, and there are no definitive conclusions yet," Dr. Anthony Kaveh, M.D., tells Romper. However, medical professionals and mask manufacturers have some best practices to share, as well as info on the ways you should never clean a face mask.