12 mask hygiene tips from hospital workers

Masks are most effective when you have proper hygiene habits when putting on or taking off your mask.
Hospital workers share mask hygiene standards.
Hospital workers share mask hygiene standards.(KWCH)
Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 8:23 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Most people are wearing a mask at least once per day. Masks are most effective when you have proper hygiene habits when putting on or taking off your mask. Lauryn Rayfield, registered nurse and Director of Inpatient Services at Susan B Allen Memorial Hospital has tips:

  1. Wear a clean cloth mask every day. Cloth masks are reusable as long as they’re washed.
  2. Use the hottest heat setting while washing and drying. She says using the hottest heat setting is best practice for sanitizing the mask. “Science has shown that heat does a good job of killing viruses and bacteria, and keep in mind that you are exposing yourself to viruses and bacteria every day - not just COVID,” she said.
  3. Any detergent works. Rayfield says antimicrobial detergents are designed to kill bacteria, but aren’t necessary. She says any detergent in hot water will work. Bleach is also an option, although it may damage the look and elastic of your mask.
  4. Medical masks can be reused. Rayfield says medical masks can be reused right now because of the high demand for PPE. She says as long as the mask is not wet, torn or visibly dirty, it is safe to reuse it.
  5. Always consider the outside of your mask dirty. Rayfield says it’s a good habit to never touch the outside of your mask. When putting it on or taking it off only touch the ear loops.
  6. If you adjust your mask, immediately wash your hands. If you aren’t near a sink, you can use hand sanitizer.
  7. Place your mask on a paper towel or napkin while eating. Rayfield says you should remove your mask by the earloops and keep it on a towel. Don’t put it directly on a surface. After you remove your mask, wash your hands or use sanitizer before you eat.
  8. Store it in a paper bag when you aren’t using it. We don’t necessarily keep our mask on all day. We take it off when we’re at home or in the car. Rayfield says you shouldn’t put it on a surface or throw it in a bag or purse. She recommends storing it in a paper bag. She says a paper bag is more breathable than a plastic bag. If the mask has any moisture on it, a paper bag allows the mask to air out.
  9. Teach your kids proper mask hygiene. If you’re worried about a mask being a distraction at school for your child, Rayfield suggests practicing wearing the mask at home. She says the more it becomes a normal part of life now, the less likely it will be a distraction. She recommends practicing taking it off for mealtimes at home, too.
  10. Be positive around your children. Rayfield says parents should encourage kids by staying positive. “I will say that this is just a new chapter in everyone’s life. There are things that we’re going to have to adapt to. This is a good life lesson for families and for children.”
  11. Keep an extra mask on hand. If you drop your mask on the floor or on a dirty surface, have an extra clean mask ready. Kids should have an extra mask as well.
  12. Don’t spray masks with disinfectant. Whether you’re wearing a disposable medical mask or reusable cloth mask, don’t use disinfectant sprays on the mask. It’s better to wash the cloth mask or get a new, clean mask.

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