Wearing a face mask is an important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many parents have questions about how to clean face masks, how many their children should have on hand and how to get their children to wear face masks and keep them on.
Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern, offers guidance on how to care for reusable cloth face masks.
How to store face masks
To keep face masks clean, you should hang your mask by the earpieces in a cool, dry place. Many families hang them on hooks near the door, so it's easy to grab them on the way out.
But you'll also want to keep extra masks handy.
"You may want to have a collection of masks so that if your child is at school and their mask gets dirty or soiled, they have a back-up in their school bag," Dr. Kahn says. "You don't want to be called to school because your child needs a replacement mask."
Pack at least one extra mask in your child's school bag, and be sure to replace this mask with a clean one after it gets used. You may also want to keep masks for the whole family in the car, in case anyone forgets their mask.
How and when to clean a reusable cloth face mask
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reusable masks should be washed regularly. After you remove your mask, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
"Have a strategy for washing masks," Dr. Kahn says. "You can throw it in the laundry and use regular soap and water."
Cloth face masks can be cleaned in your washing machine using regular detergent on the highest heat water setting possible for the cloth type in the mask. You can put cloth masks in the dryer or lay them out to dry.
Face masks can be washed by hand in the sink using your preferred laundry detergent. Soak the mask for 5 minutes, then rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Let the mask air dry or place it in the dryer. Always make sure it is completely dry before using it.
How to talk to your child about wearing a face mask
It's important to talk to your child about proper ways to wear and use their mask. You should tell them to:
- Avoid touching their mask
- Wear their mask over their nose and mouth
- Take their mask off using the earpieces, not the cloth part of the mask
- Never trade masks with another person
"You can empower your children to wear a mask by telling them they are playing their role in stopping the pandemic," Dr. Kahn says.
Wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is important, but so is mask hygiene. Learn 3 tips for keeping your child's face mask clean and safe.
Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.
Stay current on the health insights that make a difference to your children. Sign up for the Children's Health newsletter and have more tips sent directly to your inbox.