Washable Face Masks: Worth It Or Not?

Washable face mask

Washable Face Masks: Worth It Or Not?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has got everyone on their nerves. There is a risk of catching the virus from the storekeeper in the supermarket or a friend you meet in the street or even your family members who go to work every day and might have caught it from someone else they met. The uncertainty and the fear of being sick and facing COVID-19 and it’s complications have made everyone extra protective about their cleanliness, hygiene, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including the washable face masks.

 All governments and healthcare services were quick to provide us with precautionary methods that would help people prevent the spread of the virus. Of these precautions, wearing a mask has been highlighted immensely, and in some places of the world, it was made mandatory to wear a mask. 

There are many types of masks available in the market. Different masks are recommended for different people. Some of the common types of masks available in the market are

  • N95 Respirators
  • Surgical Masks
  • Washable Cloth face masks

CDC Recommendations on Face mask use:

  • N95 masks The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases including coronavirus. N95 respirators should be worn by health care professionals and those in the front line services. Excessive public use of N95 masks would lead to a shortage of N95 masks for those who need it.
  • Surgical MasksSurgical masks are disposable, loose-fitting, and manages to create a physical barrier between the respiratory entrances and potential contaminants. Surgical masks are intended to be used once by healthcare professionals, and care must be taken to wash your hands after safely removing the masks. They are made of 3 layers. One layer of cotton cloth and two layers of polypropylene.
  • Washable Cloth MasksThe CDC recommends the public use simple cloth face masks in a public setting. Cloth face masks are capable of slowing the spread of the virus and will minimize the spread of the virus from an infected host to others.

What are Washable Face Masks?

Washable face masks are typically made of cotton cloth. They have two loops that pass around the ears or straps that go behind the head. Cloth masks are relatively cheap and are reusable. Therefore there is no need of buying and hoarding a thousand masks at home. 

Washable Face Masks

The safety provided by a cloth mask does not match the safety of N95 masks, however, they are good physical barriers of droplet transmission. That is they prevent the spraying of salvia and other droplets which is the main mode of transmission of the coronavirus COVID-19. They are as effective as N95 masks in preventing the transmission of other infections like influenza.

The advantage of using a washable face mask comes down to the cost, the durability, comfort, and practicality of usage which is essential to its effectiveness as a method of preventing a pandemic outbreak.

Recommendations on Using Washable Face Masks?

Washable Face masks are recommended for the public. Anyone who does not work in a healthcare facility or proximity to an isolation ward should choose to wear a cloth mask.

It is recommended to wash the face mask after each use. That is, after a trip to the supermarket the mask should ideally be washed. So it is advisable to have multiple cloth masks with you that can be worn while the other is being washed. 

Washing the mask with a standard detergent and hot water should be enough to ensure decontamination. It is important to be careful when removing the mask to make sure you don’t accidentally contaminate yourself.

However, it is ideal to discard the mask when it starts to wear off and tear. These entry sites can allow infectious agents to enter.  

Economical Impact of Wearing a Mask

  • N95 masks are costly and are disposable. N95 masks are not a feasible solution for the common public due to the personal cost of the mask and the shortage of N95 masks that should be used by health care workers.
  • Surgical masks are cheaper, however they are also disposable. Therefore the use of surgical masks by the public would be an economic burden with continued use. There is also a shortage of Surgical masks observed in some parts of the world.
  • Washable face masks are the cheapest option for continued use for the general public and should be encouraged. A one-time investment in 2-3 masks, regular washing, and proper usage makes it the cheapest and most practical mask for public use. They are money savers not just at a personal level, but also to the country as a whole which has to face a shortage of N95 respirators.

Other Precautions

It is important to understand that wearing a mask itself is not going to be enough in preventing the transmission of any infectious agent although it goes a long way. Few other precautions must be followed when using a mask.

  • Care must be taken to avoid contamination when removing the mask. Accidentally touching your nose or face after touching the mask can in-fact carry the infectious agent from the mask to the entrance of your respiratory tract.
    • Practice regular hand washing.
    • Keep a hand sanitizer with you at all times.
    • Avoid public gathering as a whole. Some countries do not have strict laws against the spread of COVID-19, nevertheless, it is important to practice precautions ourselves.
    • Maintain a distance of 6ft when standing in queues and other public places.
    • If you do have any signs and symptoms it is important to self-isolate and contacts the health services as recommended by your locality.

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