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Masks, masks so many masks! As parents we’re likely to find them in bags, pockets, thrown in with toys, in the back seat of the car and pretty much everywhere kids put their (let’s face it) sometimes grubby hands.

But what is the proper way to wash your mask? Is there anything you need to know beyond wash and go? And what should you do with your mask when you’re out and about to make sure it stays clean?

Washing Your Mask

Christina Gagliardo, MD, attending physician in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Atlantic Health System’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital, says that masks should be washed at least daily after use or as soon as they are soiled or contaminated.

“You can wash your mask with your regular laundry with laundry detergent,” says Gagliardo. “Use the warmest water setting appropriate for the cloth used to make the mask.”

Handwashing masks is OK, too, says the doctor. “The CDC website has instructions for washing masks with a bleach solution.”

Gagliardo says to always make sure your mask is completely dry before wearing it.

“You can dry it on the highest heat setting and leave it in the dryer until totally dry or lay it flat and allow it to completely dry. If you choose to hang it to dry, the ear loops could in theory stretch and the mask might not fit properly, so be mindful of this,” she cautions.

When Out and About

We’re all accustomed to shoving worn masks into our bags while out and about, but Gagliardo says this isn’t the best idea.

“Ideally you shouldn’t put the mask directly into your bag or pockets,” she says. Instead, Gagliardo recommends placing it in a clean paper bag. “I have been using a clean envelope to put my mask in, and then put the envelope in my bag if I have to,” she says. “Mask chains are useful as well, so you don’t need to worry about setting the mask down anywhere if you need to temporarily remove it while out.”

Overall, she says the most important thing is to wash or sanitize your hands before and after touching or removing your mask.

Storing Your Mask

“Make sure your hands are cleaned with soap and water or hand sanitizer before handling the mask,” says Gagliardo. “Store it in a clean container or bag or separate drawer. Ideally a place that won’t be rummaged through, as this increases the chance of contaminating clean masks.”

The doctor says hanging your mask on a hook is ok too, but to be cautious of the loops stretching out which can cause an improper fit.

“If storing everyone’s masks in the same place at home, be mindful about rifling through looking for your mask with unwashed hands.”

By following these easy tips, you and your family will be able to rest a little easier knowing your masks are clean and being handled the right way!