How to safely wear, clean a homemade face mask

A Baptist Health radiation oncologist walks us through the process

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – How do you clean homemade face masks? How often?

These are the questions many have asked News4Jax as people are making their own protective masks amid the shortage of personal protective equipment.

Dr. Cynthia Anderson, a radiation oncologist at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, shared some information on how to make and clean a homemade face mask:

What household supplies can people use to make a face mask?

“So that’s the best part about this. The supplies you need are a piece of cloth, like a T-shirt, a pair of scissors, two rubber bands, it’s as simple as that. When you’re looking for the material to make a mask, you can hold it up to the light. If light can come through it, then you might want to go with something thicker. If it is thinner, the less it’s going to keep particles out. And the thicker it is, the more barrier it’s going to provide for you.”

(Click below for the uncut interview with Dr. Cynthia Anderson)

What are the best practices for wearing a mask?

“The best practice for wearing a mask is, first, realizing that the mask by itself is not enough. You have to wear a mask with everything else you’re doing. So the most important thing is the distancing. That’s the most important one of them all because you don’t want to catch something that somebody else sneezes or coughs and you don’t want to catch something and you don’t want to give somebody something that you caught. And the other is washing your hands 10 times a day. And that’s part of guidelines. So thankfully, we have 10 fingers so you can keep track of how many times a day you wash your hands, and not touching your face, and that’s part of what a mask was there before, and then wearing the mask. Then when you’re using a mask, wash your hands before you put the mask on your face, so you don’t put something dirty on your face. When you take it off, try to put it on something clean if you can. If you need to put it in your pocket and carry it with you, you can put it a little Ziploc bag and carry it that way with you.”

Is there any way to safely clean these masks for future use?

“The best part about this is that you can wash it yourself. The easiest way is to put it in a little bowl, and just soak it in water. Add little detergent boosters, or I add vinegar to my laundry. So, if you want to just, you know, put this in a bowl with some soap and water, you can put in a little bit of super washing booster wax if you want to, or you could just put in like a tablespoon or two of vinegar. It’s really easy, but that helps boost the disinfecting power of your laundry. Otherwise, just do it with soap and water.”

Dr. Anderson also said to remember why we are doing all of this:

“The point of wearing a mask is that by doing so, you don’t touch your face, which is one of the ways you get it. We’re trying to keep it here in this mask rather than going out. So it really is important to do all of these things the life you save could be yours the life you saved could be mine. So please, please, now’s the time to do it.”

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