TAMPA, Fla. — Health experts say caring for your face masks is extremely important because it’s supposed to protect you and others around you from COVID-19.
After wearing masks for the past few months, doctors say there are some clear signs you should look out for that will let you know if your mask is no longer working properly.
“When the edges start to fray or if the pieces where they connect start to fall apart, of if they are visibly soiled, then you should really get a new mask,” said Dr. Tracey Taylor, Associate Dean of USF College of Nursing.
Also, if your masking isn’t fitting around your nose anymore and doesn’t have a close fit around your face and under your chin, it’s time for a new one.
“It’s super important to make sure your mask is fitting appropriately, that it’s not visibly soiled, that the edges aren’t frayed and that the attachments to the ear loops or tie backs, whatever type you’re wearing is appropriately attached,” said Taylor.
If your cloth mask isn’t damaged, experts say you need to remember to wash it.
If you have one of those cloth masks with a filter, remove the filter and wash that separately.
Experts say washing with detergent or soap is best, and it doesn’t have to be with super hot water.
However, there’s another option too.
“You can put them in a paper bag and seal it up for a couple of days. That’ll inactivate any virus that’s on it and reuse it too,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, Professor of Public Health Practice at USF.
After several months, experts say there’s now more information about which masks are most effective. There are several on the market, like N95 masks, surgical masks, and cloth masks.
Experts say the key to a cloth mask is making sure it has at least three layers of material, or has a place to add a filter.
Cloth masks are typically the easiest for the general public to use because they’re reusable, and doctors say the research shows they’re pretty effective.
Although any face covering is better than none, there are some that just don’t work very well.
- Experts say bandanas are very thin and won’t give you the type of protection you’re looking for.
- Doctors tell us any mask with a valve on it is completely ineffective because the valve allows particles to come in and out.
- The popular neck gaiters that you can easily pull up and down, don’t provide a lot of protection for you or the people around you.
Experts say there is a quick hack to help you if you don’t have an appropriate mask on hand.
“If you find yourself with a single layer, you could use something like a paper towel inside there to add an extra layer if you need to,” said Levine.
You should at least have two masks on hand in case you lose one, or one breaks.
“There’s no one thing that we do that will protect us to the highest level. It’s a series of things,” said Levine.