How To: Wear, clean reusable masks

Cherokee County Health Department staff are required to wear masks. Working behind the window are Donna Renden-Mendez, administrative technician, and Kristye K. Adams, coordinating nurse.

With city officials urging the use of masks, and some Oklahoma schools requiring them once school starts, people might want to take certain considerations into account when taking their masks off for the day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization, recommend that anyone over the age of 2 don cloth masks when out in public, or around people who do not live in the same household. Both organizations, along with health professionals across the globe, say the use of face coverings can reduce the spread of COVID-19 when widely used by people in public settings.

Recommendations from the CDC and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extensions Service include having a mask that is snug. It should be made of three to four layers of fabric for protection, including a filtration layer. Masks might feel uncomfortable, or make it warmer for the person wearing it, but according to Dr. Lynn Boorady, head of the OSU Cooperative Extension Design, Housing and Merchandising department, people should try to relax and breathe normally.

"You want your breath to be going through the fabric and not out the sides, the top, or the bottoms of the mask," said Boorady in a video supplied by the OSU Extension Office.

When people arrive home after being out in public, it is suggested they take care when removing the mask.

"If there happens to be germs on the outside of it, you don't want to them on your hands," said Heather Winn, family and consumer science educator for the OSU Extension Office in Cherokee County. "It doesn't do you good to have the mask on if you're going to touch it all over you while you're in the process of taking it off."

When taking off a mask, the wearer should only touch the sides of the masks. The outside of the mask could be contaminated from what is in the atmosphere, and the insides of the mask can be contaminated by the moisture of the wearer's own breath.

"You can take them off and leave them in an undistributed area for 48 to 72 ours," said Winn. "Current research indicates that the virus has limited life on fabric and cardboard."

According to Boorady, masks should not sealed in a plastic bag.

"If you put it in a plastic bag or on a metal surface, they'll transfer germs and they live a lot longer on those surfaces," she said.

Winn said masks can also be thrown in the washer with regular laundry on the hot water setting. People can also wash their masks by hand, according to the CDC, using five tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water, or four teaspoons of household bleach per quart of room of temperature water. The label should be checked to see if the bleach is intended for disinfection.

Winn said masks can also be thrown in the drier after washing. Masks owners should use the heat setting and leave the masks in the dryer until completely dry. When air drying, the mask should be laid flat and, if possible, placed in direct sunlight.

"That makes them good to go again," said Winn.

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