Homemade fabric mask being sewn Photo submitted by: Amelia Bodge

By: Amelia Bodge, Staff Writer

For just about everyone wearing either a mask or face covering has become a part of their daily lives and has become the easiest way for people to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

Along with these newfound accessories though comes many questions. Which is better reusable fabric masks or disposable? How often should one wash their reusable fabric mask? How to clean your mask? And why should we even be wearing masks at all?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) employs all citizens to wear masks in public settings as masks provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people as well as protect the wearer from inhaling the virus.

In November Governor Janet Mills announced an Executive Order requiring Maine people to wear face coverings in public settings, regardless of the ability to maintain physical distance.

When it comes to the debate over cloth masks versus fabric masks either is fine as they have relatively the same effectiveness. The CDC was employing people to choose fabric masks over disposable masks because disposable masks have been in short supply recently. 

The CDC also urges people to not use N95 respirators when able as those should be saved for healthcare workers. 

When initially selecting a mask the CDC states that the mask should have two or more layers of breathable fabric, the mask should completely cover one’s nose and mouth, and the mask should fit flush again the face as to have no gaps.

When choosing or creating a fabric mask one should not choose fabrics like bandanas or knitted masks as the fabric is not tight enough water droplets or aerosols from escaping.

The CDC states that homemade reusable masks can be just as effective when made correctly. The CDC includes some easy and approved patterns for homemade masks on their website, including both sew and no-sew options.   

People should also avoid any mask with an exhalation valve as aerosols can escape through the valve and infect people.

When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing your mask the CDC recommends one should wash their mask whenever it gets dirty. This for most daily mask wearers means once a day. 

People should also think about having multiple masks and a mask rotation to insure they aren’t wearing one that might be infected. If the mask has been in contact or is dirtied by sweat, makeup, saliva, or other compromising substances it should be put in a plastic bag until it can be washed.

The easiest way to clean a fabric mask according to the CDC is to just throw it in the washing machine with your regular laundry and using detergent. If one is going to wash a mask by hand they should use laundry detergent or soap and rinse thoroughly.

Masks can be dried in a dryer on a warm or hot setting, by hanging directly in sunlight or laying them flat to dry. Masks should be dried as the CD warns that damp or wet masks can make it harder to breathe and are less effective.

There are many different types of reusable fabric and disposable masks so it purely comes down to wearer preference. But as long as the mask is comfortable for the wearer and follows the CDC mask guidelines it should be acceptable and safe. 



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