Mask maintenance: how long does a mask last?

Published: December 10, 2020 7:38 AM EST
Updated: December 10, 2020 8:03 AM EST

How often do you change your masks, and how often do you wash them? The guidelines for proper mask maintenance may be more stringent than you think.

We’ve been wearing masks for months, many of us purchasing cloth ones. But how long do they really last before we should throw them out?

Not as long as you may think, according to Dr. Bindu Mayi, a professor at Nova Southeastern University. She says that typically a cloth mask can withstand about 30-40 wears at most, and we should be washing them every single day. Surgical masks should be used only once.

Mayi gave some warning signs of what your cloth mask may start to look like when it’s becoming ineffective.

“I have a nose piece that has a tighter fit around my nose so that may become loose, it might start gaping more,” Mayi said. “If you hold it up to the light, you’ll see that it starts to look frayed. So those are the kind of things that you don’t want to have.”

Mayi added that you should be hand-washing your mask rather than throwing it in your washer or dryer. She says with cases surging, we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and each other.