Are Face Masks Washable? The Full Guide

How many face masks have you gone through since the beginning of last year? If you’re like most of us, the number is pretty high. In fact, it probably took a little time to find a face mask that not only fit properly, but was actually comfortable enough to wear on a daily basis. 

Although the onset of COVID-19 meant scrambling for whatever face covering was available that we could get our hands on, supply has finally caught up with demand and we can be a little more selective about masks. 

For the environmentally conscious among us, cloth masks are a must. Cloth masks are also approved by the CDC for slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

Besides being supremely comfortable (they’re especially comfy for picky kiddos), choosing a cloth mask also helps ensure that medical-grade masks are available for front line healthcare workers. 

While wearing a cloth mask is CDC-approved, it is crucial to make sure we’re wearing them properly and cleaning them regularly. If your cloth mask hasn’t seen the washing machine in a few weeks, we get it. 

We’re all guilty of stuffing our masks into our car consoles at the end of a long day and forgetting to toss them in the wash from time to time. 

Thankfully, a little detergent can cover a multitude of mask mistakes. We’ll cover which masks you can clean, and which should be disposed of after a single use. We’ll also cover how to properly clean your masks for reuse. 

Are All Masks Washable?

Not all face coverings are washable. Just like other single use products, single use disposable masks are far from washable, and if you try to put them in your washing machine, they’ll fall apart and make a huge mess. 

Additionally, KN95 masks are not washable. While some users choose to wear them numerous times, they aren’t designed for multiple uses. The decision to wear them past a single use is completely up to the user. 

Masks that are washable are:

  • Double layer cloth masks, with or without filter pockets. It’s important to remove the filter before washing. The filters aren’t typically washable and will create a mess in your washing machine if you place them inside. 
  • Neoprene style, sweat-proof masks. These types of masks are made from a material that is breathable and incredibly lightweight. These masks are great for people who aren’t comfortable wearing other types of masks. 

How To Wash Your Reusable Mask

If you own a reusable mask that can be washed, you need to know how to properly care for them. You don’t need specialized soaps or cleansers, just a washing machine or a safe hand washing system.  

Here’s how to clean and sanitize your reusable mask with a washing machine. 

  1. Wash your hands. The first step in handling your mask should always be washing your hands or using a hand sanitizer to clean them. You should avoid touching your mask while you wear it as much as possible, as touching it can transfer germs and bacteria from your hands to your mask, where it has the potential to be inhaled. 

  2. Remove your mask and toss it into your washing machine. You don’t need to place your mask in a protective bag, but if you’re washing a large load of laundry, you can certainly place your mask in a bag so it doesn’t get lost. 

  3. Wash your hands (again). Because your mask is soiled, it’s important to wash your hands again. This is especially important if you’ve been around someone who is sick, or if you’ve been in a large crowd or in an area where you weren’t able to properly social distance. 

  4. Wash your mask. You don’t need to wash your mask any differently than you wash your other laundry. The CDC states you can wash your cloth masks with your regular laundry and on the setting recommended by the mask manufacturer.

    This means you don’t need to wash your cloth masks in bleach or on a hot wash setting unless you just want to. You also don’t need to use a special detergent for your mask, however if you have sensitive skin you may want to consider washing your mask in a gentle, or fragrance free detergent so that the skin on your face doesn’t become irritated. 

  5. Dry your mask. Getting your mask completely dry is important to ensure your mask doesn’t develop bacterial growth. You can dry your mask completely by placing it in the dryer on regular heat, or hanging your mask outside to dry in direct sunlight. 

  6. Reuse your mask, but wash your hands first. Before handling your mask again, wash your hands. Getting in the habit of washing your hands before and after you touch your mask is a great idea, and can help keep your mask cleaner between washes. 

If you’re washing a reusable mask by hand, follow steps 1-3 above, and then continue by following these steps:

  1. Wash your reusable mask in lukewarm water with laundry detergent and water. 

  2. Rinse your reusable mask in lukewarm water until the laundry soap has been completely removed. 

  3. Air or machine dry your reusable mask as outlined above. 

Helpful Hints

When to Wash

The CDC recommends you wash your reusable mask after each wear. It’s completely your decision whether you follow these guidelines, but if you wear your mask for several hours at a time, there’s a much higher chance it could be carrying bacteria and will need a wash. 

What if I Forget To Wash My Mask?

It happens. You hop in the car and drive to work, realizing once you get there that your mask is dirty. If this happens, you can spray your mask with a disinfectant spray, however it isn’t recommended that you wear the mask until it has had about an hour to air dry. 

Where Do I Store My Mask?

When you are between uses, you can store your clean mask in a dry place. It’s most important that your mask is dry before you store it so it doesn’t become a bacterial breeding ground. 

If you need to store your mask during the day and then use it again (for instance, during your lunch break) it’s most important to wash your hands before and after you take your mask off and replace it. You can store your mask in a paper bag between uses to keep it safe and clean. 

The Takeaway

If you use a reusable face mask, it’s important to remember to clean it properly and frequently. You can clean it easily in your washing machine or in your sink by hand. You don’t need any type of specialty formula for cleaning a reusable mask, but you may prefer to use a fragrance free laundry detergent if you have sensitive skin. 

A reusable mask should last for a long time if you care for it properly. Hope Health Supply offers high-quality, reusable masks for a fair, never gouged, price, and they’re in stock and available to ship. 



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