How to Properly Wear, Store and Clean Face Masks

Reviewed by Myrto Frangos, MD
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
How to Properly Wear, Store and Clean Face Masks

As states reopen, Covid-19 cases are rising. To help curb the spread of the virus, many States are requiring us to wear facemasks.

While face-coverings can be uncomfortable, studies show wearing them can help stop the person-to-person spread of Coronavirus. Thanks to face masks, in Missouri none of the 140 clients and six co-workers who were exposed to two hairstylists with coronavirus were diagnosed with COVID-19!


But in order for facemasks to be effective, they need to be used, stored and cleaned properly. Here are some tips to maximize the use of non-surgical face masks.


How to Wear a Face Mask

The face mask should fit snugly but comfortably over the bridge of the nose, hugging the side of the face, and under the chin. The mask should be secure enough so it doesn’t slide off of the nose. It should be secured with ties or ear loops.

The face mask should fit snugly but comfortably over the bridge of the nose, hugging the side of the face, and under the chin.
Illustration by Tricia Choi


If you have to adjust your mask, you should first wash or sanitize your hands, adjust the mask, and wash or sanitize your hands again.  Avoid touching your face. If you touch your face, wash or sanitize before and after. For detailed instructions on how to wash or sanitize your hands properly, please refer to the CDC guidelines. And don't share your face mask with others, even with your family members.

Wash or sanitize your hands if you touch your face or mask.
Illustration by Tricia Choi


How to Take a Face Mask Off

When removing a mask, do not touch the face covering. Instead untie the ties or remove the loops and lift the mask off by holding on to these ties or loops. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. After removing the face mask, wash or sanitize your hands.

Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth as you remove the face mask. After removing the mask, wash or sanitize your hands.
Illustration by Tricia Choi


How to Store and Clean a Face Mask

To disinfect face masks that you can’t wash, immediately after taking it off, fold it with the ‘contaminated’ outside surface inside on itself and place it in a clean paper bag and then wash or sanitize your hands. The mask should no longer be infectious after a few days, as COVID19 is known to survive on hard surfaces for only up to a few days.

If you have a cloth mask, it needs to be washed after each use. You can wash the cloth mask in a washing machine, preferably in hot water. Remember to wash or sanitize your hands after putting the mask into the washing machine. You can also hand wash it by soaking it in soapy water for five minutes and then rinsing it thoroughly.

If you have a cloth mask, it needs to be washed after each use.
Illustration by Tricia Choi


How to Dispose a Face Mask

By holding onto the ties or loops of your mask, place it in a bag like a grocery shopping bag or a ziplock bag. Secure the bag tightly and place it into the trash can. You can also discard your face mask directly into a lined trash bin. But remember to use gloves when removing garbage bags and disposing of trash. Wash or sanitize your hands immediately after disposing of the mask or handling the trash. Do not put on a new face mask until you have properly washed or sanitized your hands.




Given the absence of vaccines, wearing masks, which can be made at home easily, can slow COVID-19 transmission. That said, we need to ensure that we know how to wear masks properly. At this time, it’s one of the best preventive measures we have. 


Thank you to Dr. Myrto Frangos, Dr. Morey, Dr. Juli Fraga, and Parag Gujar for reading drafts of this.

[1] Frankel, Todd. “The Outbreak That Didn't Happen: Masks Credited with Preventing Coronavirus Spread inside Missouri Hair Salon.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 17 June 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/17/masks-salons-missouri/.

[2] “When and How to Wash Your Hands.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Apr. 2020, www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html.

[3]Plasencia, Author: Ariel. “How Long Does Coronavirus Last on Different Surfaces?” Wfaa.com, 26 May 2020, www.wfaa.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/how-long-does-coronavirus-last-surfaces-cardboard-wood-glass-metal/287-face7bb8-d970-4fdb-bc90-95f79ef49047.

[4]“How to Make Your own Face Covering.” YouTube, uploaded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 Apr. 2020,https://youtu.be/tPx1yqvJgf4

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