While throwing your face masks in the washer is a great way to disinfect them, not everyone has time to get in an extra load of laundry—especially as often as these things need to be cleaned. (Experts recommend cleaning them after every use, after all.) The good news is you have more options than you think, and they’re a whole lot quicker than waiting for the washing machine to do its thing.
According to microbiologist Jason Tetro, author of The Germ Files, you can kill off the microbes lurking on your cloth face masks through washing them by hand or even giving them a nice steam. Here’s how to effectively clean your face mask when you’re not in the mood for laundry.
How to clean a cloth face mask without doing a load of laundry
1. Wash by hand and soak it
Unlike using the washing machine, handwashing your face mask is super-quick and super-effective. According to Tetro, your main goal is removing as much dirt, oil, and microbes as possible. “Soap will be able to do this ($20, amazon.com), as will laundry detergent ($20 for 2, amazon.com). And using hot water over 160°F will kill any possible pathogens,” he says.
To get your face mask really clean, use his three-step method. “You may want to perform a handwash with soap, rinse, then soak in hot water for about five minutes,” he says. “Then you can either drip dry or put it into a dryer.” Make sure you’re using fragrance-free soap or detergent, since the material will be rubbing on your face.
2. Steam it for 30 seconds
You know the steamer you use to get wrinkles out of your clothes ($19, amazon.com)? It works for killing microbes on your cloth face mask, too. “For killing microbes, steaming is effective. Just use a steamer right on the mask for 30 seconds,” he says. While this method kills the germs, it won’t remove dirt and oil, Tetro says, which can leave you with acne. But it’s great for a quick germ-killing fix until you have time to handwash it or throw it in the washer.
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