How to wash a face mask – or face covering

With government guidelines around face masks and face coverings coming into force, knowing how to wash a face mask is vital. Here's how

face mask
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This week, the government announced that wearing face masks or face coverings in 'retail environments' (we're saying 'shops') is to become compulsory in England from 24 July. 

Surgical face masks are now available in some shops although strictly these disposable buys are still best reserved for healthcare workers. For the rest of us, buying face masks that can be washed is a more sensible move, cheaper in the long run, and no doubt better for the environment, too. But these do need washing – and you will need more than one face mask so that you always have clean ones in rotation. 

Also essential? Knowing how to keep your face mask clean and using it correctly to keep yourself and others healthy. We’ve got the cleaning advice you’ve been looking for.

How to clean a face mask

1. You should wash a face mask after each use.

2. Keep your cloth face mask in a plastic bag until you can wash it. It shouldn’t be left lying around, and you’ll have to clean any surfaces it’s touched.

3. A cloth face mask can go in with your usual laundry, and you don’t need any special detergent either – your usual washing liquid or powder will do the job fine. If you’ve bought the face mask, it should come with washing instructions. Made one yourself from a cotton T-shirt or an old pillowcase, perhaps? Always use the hottest laundry cycle you can for the material from which the face covering is made.

4. Make sure the mask is completely dry before you put it on again. In other words, you’ll likely need more than one so you’ve always got a freshly washed and dry face covering to use.

5. Don’t forget the other face mask essentials:

Be sure to wash your hands (or use hand sanitiser) before putting the face mask on. Once you’ve taken it off? Yup, you need to wash your hands throughly, too. 

Make sure you don’t touch the front, or the part of the face mask that’s been in contact with you nose and mouth at any time. Instead, remove it via the hoops that hook around your ears.