Over the last year and a half, people across the world have purchased facemasks in record quantities. Although masks are essential to controlling the spread of COVID-19, it appears that people aren’t prepared to deal with the proper disposal of their single-use face masks.
Thankfully, more and more people are turning to reusable masks as a more environmentally friendly alternative. Here are the key things you need to know when shopping for cloth masks and how to reduce your environmental impact now and in the future.
- Should I wear a face mask?
- Are reusable masks safe?
- How to care for a reusable face mask
- How to choose a reusable mask
Should I Wear a Face Mask?
If your goal is to return to something resembling normal, wearing a reusable or cloth face mask is a no brainer. Masks have become a hot topic over the last year as people around the world battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Although people in Western countries aren’t accustomed to wearing face masks regularly, other countries don’t blink when seeing friends, neighbors, and people on the street dressed in various medical and cloth masks.
According to the World Health Organization, wearing a mask is a critical part of the comprehensive strategy necessary to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 and save the lives of those potentially infected. “Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. The appropriate use, storage, and cleaning or disposal are essential to make masks as effective as possible.”
As international travel begins to resume, it’s essential to determine the different regulations in place for each country or municipality. Although many countries are taking a reactive approach by encouraging residents to wear face masks in public, the Singapore Ministry of Health decided to be proactive through a mandatory mask policy beginning in mid-2020.
The strict approach to mask-wearing has more than paid off for residents of Singapore. According to the Ministry of Health website, as of early February 2021, the country sits at just under 200 active cases of COVID-19. The newest reopening phase allows for increased attendance at social gatherings, a larger operating capacity for stores and shopping malls, and even resuming arts and culture performances at outside venues.
Are Reusable Masks Safe?
Wearing a reusable or cloth mask is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself and others safe from the spread of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. These masks help prevent the spread of droplets released into the air when someone coughs, talks, or sneezes. Cloth masks can also prevent a person from inhaling droplets from another person nearby. However, it’s critical to keep three things in mind when wearing a reusable mask:
- How you touch your face mask
- Cleaning your face mask
- Where you store your reusable mask
How to Care for a Reusable Face Mask
According to data released by the United Nations, “around 75 percent of the used masks, as well as other pandemic-related waste, will end up in landfills, or floating in the seas.” Even if only 1% of face masks are disposed of improperly, that is more than ten million masks weighing between 30- and 40,000 kilograms polluting our environment. Thankfully, choosing a reusable mask can help drastically reduce the amount of waste and environmental damage the pandemic will cause.
Having multiple cloth masks on hand is key to keeping yourself and others safe. If you stay at home most of the time, you should have at least two masks — one to wash and one to wear in rotation. However, many people keep several masks on hand in case of emergencies and coordinate with their outfits.
To keep your mask clean and yourself safe, take special care of how you touch your face mask when taking it off or putting it on.
Before putting on or taking off your mask:
- Remember to wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly.
- Only touch the loops or ties to place them around your ears and avoid touching the front of the mask.
- Once you’ve put on your mask, refrain from touching it until it’s time to remove it. If you do accidentally touch your mask, rewash or sanitize your hands.
When taking off and storing your cloth mask, there are also a few things to keep in mind. If your mask contains filters, remove them and throw them in the trash. Then, place the mask directly into a laundry basket or washing machine. If you’re not home, place the mask into a disposable or washing bag to avoid contaminating other items you have. Finally, clean or sanitize your hands again.
How to Choose a Reusable Mask
There are a few things to consider when selecting a cloth or reusable mask:
- Is it adjustable?
- How easy is it to wash?
- Do you want it to match your clothing?
Adjustable cloth masks are a great way to accommodate different face shapes and sizes because it allows the user to create a customized feel with their mask. Having the ability to adjust your mask can also help make it the most comfortable for the wearer in different situations. Also, check the type of fabric your mask is made with. Cotton allows for the greatest airflow to keep you feeling refreshed in hot weather while thicker fabrics are more insulating.
The second important aspect to consider when shopping for a reusable mask is how easy it will be to wash. Think about your schedule and how often you’ll be changing out your mask. If you select a face mask that you’ll need to hand wash, it can become a tedious process if you need to wash several masks multiple times each week.
Last but not least, think about whether or not you want your mask to match your clothing. For children, accessorizing with cloth masks can be a fun way to make it easier to adjust to mask-wearing. You can also purchase matching adult and children face masks to look perfectly coordinated with your little ones!
Whether you choose a brightly coloured mask with your favourite pattern or a more neutral face mask option, keep yourself, your community, and the environment safe by choosing eco-friendly options for your face mask needs.