How Masks Become Incubators for Viruses & How to Keep Them Clean
Apr 13, 2021
A rotary saw is an exceptionally useful tool. They play major roles in carpentry, construction, and even life-saving rescue operations. But if they are poorly maintained, they become a dangerous and potentially life-threatening hazard to the operator and others. Similarly, your face mask is a valuable tool that can protect you from all sorts of diseases. Yet, without proper care, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Why it’s so Important to Keep Your Face Mask Clean
For most of us, it seems like a no-brainer that you want to keep anything that covers your mouth nice and clean. But sometimes it’s just too easy to grab a mask you already used out of your pocket or purse. Well, here are two great reasons that should help you remember to wash your mask after every use.
COVID-19 Can Survive on Masks for a Long Time
A mask helps to protect you from corona, but if COVID droplets or particulates land on it, what protects you from your mask? A recent study has found that the coronavirus can live on fabrics for up to 72 hours.
That means that if your face mask has been exposed, it has the potential to infect you for up to three days. Every time you touch the mask or reuse it, the risk increases. This is especially worrisome considering that many cloth masks are reversible. So you could easily be covering your mouth with the infected surface. The best way to reduce this risk is to wash or dispose of your mask after use.
Unwashed Face Masks are Petri Dishes
It’s not just COVID that your mask keeps out. On a daily basis, we are exposed to all sorts of bacteria. In most cases, the bacteria are in small enough quantities that it doesn’t present a problem. But if allowed to sit on masks, bacteria and viruses can replicate.
A mask is a perfect environment for bacteria to multiply. The inside of the mask is dark, humid, and limits breathability. All of these conditions make a mask a great incubator for bacteria and viruses.
Simply washing the mask between uses you can clear out bacterial growth and prevent these risks. If, however, the mask is allowed to sit the bacteria can become more difficult to remove through simple washing. If this occurs, the mask should be disposed of since it becomes riskier to use and loses protective qualities.
A Dirty Mask Doesn’t Work
When a mask gets dirty it loses its effectiveness. Not only can bacteria on the mask grow and present a risk, but the mask itself is less able to do its job. The material degrades, reducing its protective capability. As well, the face mask pores can expand, making it easier for virus-containing particulates to permeate the fabric.
How to Keep Your Covid Mask Clean & Safe From Bacterial Growth
The most obvious methods to keep your mask clean between uses are pretty much the most effective. The first is to avoid reusing masks between uses, at least until they can be thoroughly washed. This brings us to the second method, washing your mask.
Most cloth masks are reusable and are safe to wash both by hand and in the laundry machines. No special washing techniques are necessary so long as the mask is properly dried before storage.
Another important consideration is storage. You don’t want to go through all the trouble of cleaning your mask just to store it somewhere where it can become dirty. Find a clean, dry location where there is little risk of cross-contamination. You don’t need a complicated storage device. Even leaving a mask in a brown paper bag can help keep it safe.
But what about a mask you’re wearing all day, such as on a plane or at the office? Extended wear increases the risk of incubation, with each warm breath contributing to a damp bacteria-friendly environment.
One of the best options here is to use a face mask insert. The plastic device slips easily under any mask, changing its shape to allow greater airflow. This helps to increase your breathability while preventing a humid atmosphere from building up inside the mask. As a result, the mask is less hospitable to viruses and bacteria.
Keep your mask safe and comfortable with PowerAir breathable mask inserts!