1st August 2021
If you’re going to use a face mask or covering, it’s crucial to take care to use, remove and wash it properly, to keep both yourself and others protected.
Touching the front of the mask, leaving it lying around or not washing / replacing it enough could potentially increase the risk of infection to yourself and others, as well as making it more likely you'll develop 'maskne' - outbreaks of spots related to mask-wearing.
Here's how to keep things clean and avoid any issues:
You should always wash or sanitise your hands before putting on a mask. If you're out and about, it's best to keep sanitiser with you so that you can safely remove your mask and put it on again if needed.
Use the ear loops when putting on or removing and avoid touching the front as much as possible.
If you wear glasses, you may have issues with them steaming up when you wear a face mask. If this happens:
Some people have reported problems with 'maskne' - outbreaks of spots or acne caused by the humidity and moisture created on the skin from wearing a mask.
A dermatologist we spoke to recommends that people:
While it may be more difficult on long journeys, it’s important when you can to (safely) remove your mask and allow your skin to breathe and to prevent sweat sebum secretion and retention behind the mask.
If you have sensitive skin, you might want to avoid wearing make-up while you’re out as this can contribute to clogged pores and breakouts.
Watch our video below for more on how to look after your skin while using a face covering.
To wash a reusable face covering, ideally you should machine wash on a hot wash (about 60°C), but you can put it in the washing machine in a normal wash.
Mask manufacturers should also give some basic washing instructions and there may be some specific requirements based on what material is used, so check this when you buy.
If you've got a mask with a special antimicrobial coating such as silver or copper, you'll probably have to wash this in a different way to avoid damaging the coating: make sure to check the manufacturer's instructions.
Some experts say you can hand wash your face covering with laundry detergent, but there is some disagreement about whether this is enough.
Detergent can kill COVID-19, but this may not be the only thing lurking on your mask, and a quick dip and dash is unlikely to be sufficient.
However, it also depends on your circumstances. If you're wearing your mask for prolonged periods of time in enclosed spaces or high risk areas, you should exercise more caution.
If you do hand wash your mask, make sure you use hot water and scrub thoroughly - for at least 20 seconds.
It's worth having a few masks on the go so that you can wear a fresh one while another is being washed and not worry about being caught short.
Once washed, make sure your mask is fully dry before using it again, as residual moisture can affect its effectiveness.
Face coverings need to be washed after each use, which for most people just heading to the shops or taking short trips on public transport should translate to washing it after a day's wear.
You should change your face mask, though, as soon as it gets damp or after a few hours of continued use.
There's a risk that face masks could become contaminated after wearing, so you should store used ones in a separate bag or container until you're able to wash them.