Reusable fabric face masks and coverings can collect dirt, sweat, oils and other grime, so it’s important to wash them regularly.1 Depending on how often and how long you wear a cloth face mask, you’ll want to wash it with soap and hot water frequently—even after every wearing if needed.

Disposable surgical masks are not washable and should be thrown away after each use. Masks made of cotton, linen or other washable fabrics can usually be included with your regular laundry loads inside a garment bag to prevent tangling or damage. You can also wash face masks by hand. See below for our step-by-step guide for how to clean a face mask.

A loaded washing machine filling with water

How to wash a face mask in the washer

Most face masks and face coverings like gaiters made from cotton, linen, or other washable fabrics can be tossed in the washer with the rest of your laundry. Consult any care instructions for the fabric before machine washing.

What you’ll need:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Garment bag (optional)
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Step 1: Remove any paper filters
If you use a paper filter with your face mask, like a coffee filter, remove the filter before washing. Reusable, washable filters should generally be hand washed, but check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care.

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Step 2: Wash face mask in the washer
To prevent ear loops or nose wires from becoming stretched or damaged, you may want to place the face mask in a garment bag. Choose a normal cycle or a sanitize cycle with the hottest water appropriate for the fabric. Use your regular detergent or a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic detergent if you have sensitive skin.

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Step 3: Dry face mask in the dryer
After washing, dry your face mask in the dryer using the hottest temperature appropriate for the fabric.

Cloth face masks next to a sink

How to wash a face mask by hand

Some cloth face masks, especially those that are hand-sewn or have washable filters sewn inside, are more delicate and should be washed by hand.

What you’ll need:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Bleach (optional)
Filter icon

Step 1: Remove any paper filters
If you use a paper filter with your face mask, like a coffee filter, remove the filter before washing. If your face mask has a reusable, washable filter, you can either leave it inside the mask or remove to hand wash separately. Follow the same instructions below to wash the filter separately.

Hand wash icon

Step 2: Scrub face mask by hand
Fill a sink or basin with hot water and about a tablespoon of detergent. Scrub the face mask for at least 20 seconds and then rinse with clean water. Alternatively, if the fabric is safe to bleach, you can use a bleach solution of 4 teaspoons of bleach per 1 quart of room temperature water. Soak the mask for 5 minutes and rinse thoroughly.

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Step 3: Air dry face mask
Once clean, lay the face mask flat to air dry. Place the mask in direct sunlight if you can, and don’t wear it until completely dry.

Drying tip: You can dry reusable, washable face mask filters using a hair dryer—just make sure to keep the hair dryer 6 to 8 inches away from the filter.

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1. Consult the Center for Disease Control for the latest information on eliminating COVID-19 from masks.