Just how dirty is your mask? It’s probably filthy

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 12:50 PM CDT
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(WHAM) – More than a year into the pandemic, masks remain a huge part of our daily routine to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.

But who’s protecting us from our masks? Many of us wear reusable cloth masks every day.

So, what’s lurking on the inside?

“We found that there were more organisms on the part of the mask facing the mouth,” said microbiologist Anne Courtney.

With the help of the school of life sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology, two cloth masks were tested.

One was worn for three days with no washing. The other was also worn for three days, but was washed in a washing machine each day.

The unwashed mask had more bacteria, but not the bad kind.

“The bacteria that we found are what we call normal flora, so these are bacteria that are associated with us,” said microbiologist André Hudson. “We consider them good bacteria because they help ward off competitors which are often bad organisms that will cause diseases or sickness.”

If your mask has sweat or makeup, it still isn’t’ dangerous to the human body, according to him.

So why wash your mask at all? COVID-19 lasts about two days on cloth.

“If you’re out in public and the mask is exposed to the virus, you wouldn’t want to bring it your home because someone could touch it and then touch their mouth,” Hudson said. Washing, it can only help.”

Disposable masks are one and done with no washing required, but there are environmental concerns.

Whether it’s cloth or throw-away, scientists recommend masks when there’s a need.

“They’re not going to hurt you in any form or fashion,” said Courtney. “And even if you forget to wash them one day or whatever, it’s not going to be any hazard to you personally.”

Learn how to improve the fit of your mask to offer better protection.

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