Rewind to December 31, 2019, as the clock struck midnight, it not only signified the beginning of a new decade but also the start of a catastrophic pandemic. Who knew it would significantly alter people’s lives, and face masks and sanitisers would become an utmost priority?
But it did.
As everyone scurried for their safety, many kinds of face masks came into the battleground to offer protection from the virus. One of the most common was the disposable surgical and N95 masks.
The Centers for Disease Control deemed a properly fitting respirator mask an ideal face mask. However, these disposable face masks in Australia were also quite expensive – costing $20-$50 per box.
So, throwing these masks out after a brief usage not only adds to a long bill but also negatively impacts the environment. Good thing you don’t have to dispose of your mask after a single day’s use anymore.
There were a total of 226,653 active Covid-19 cases as of June 27, 2022, in Australia. With so many cases, wearing face masks is essential for protection.
Here’s how you can safely reuse your masks!
How to reuse a mask safely?
As per several experts and CDC, you can reuse disposable face masks in Australia after keeping them in a paper bag for a couple of days. This is especially helpful for most healthcare frontier workers if they cannot chuck out masks very often.
Put the used masks in different brown paper bags, and switch from one to another on a rotational basis. The virus is expected to survive for around 72 hours, so waiting 5-7 days before reusing the mask gives enough time for the virus to die.
How about a wet mask? What to do with it?
Masks surely degrade in quality if there is any moisture. So, if you are wearing a mask while working out in the gym or you’re in a place with a humid climate, moisture can certainly cause damage.
But, if this moisture or condensation is owing to your breathing, you can still reuse the mask. Please keep it in a dry paper bag in a place that receives a lot of sunlight. It will help fasten the process of viral deactivation.
On the other hand, if your mask is entirely wet, say, due to rain, it’s best to dump it.
Is it helpful to wash the disposable mask with alcohol, soap or bleach?
It’s easy to get tempted by the idea of washing or rinsing a used disposable mask. You must think it will freshen the mask, but it’s not true. If the mask gets wet or if you wash it vigorously with soap, it can wreck the material.
Further, do not disinfect the mask with alcohol, bleach, or chemicals. It will lower the mask’s integrity and ruin its efficiency in filtering the virus. Besides the apparent damage to the mask, if the disinfectant stays on the disposable mask, it can cause harm to you, too.
There’s no fixed timeline that tells you when it’s time to throw a mask out. You could do it after 2 or 10 uses. It entirely depends on how clean the material looks, how securely its elastic still fits and whether it offers good airflow.
Furthermore, consider where and how long you wear your mask for. If you wear a mask every day on a subway, you should discard the mask sooner than an individual who only wears a mask during grocery errands once a week.
So, you can store your used masks safely in a bag and wait for a few days before reusing them. But, if the mask seems to get thin, dirty and damaged, it’s time to whip out a new mask!