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How to Safely Clean Your COVID-19 Face Mask

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Across the country, a number of cities require people to wear masks or face coverings when out in public, and millions more are doing it just to be safe.

But the masks can get dirty quickly, and you may be wondering if they can be safely cleaned since they're not easy to find.

Here's how it's done.

Hot water and detergent is key

"On cloth surfaces, the virus can live up to seven days according to the CDC, so you're gonna throw it in the washing machine and then your gonna throw it in the dryer on high heat," said Women's Day content director Meaghan Murphy.

Don't use the oven or microwave

It's a fire hire hazard, Murphy said. "We don't recommend it."

Hand wash disposable masks

Surgical masks can also be reused, but they must be treated more delicately.

"It's not gonna hold up as well in the laundry, so you can hand wash it in sudsy water and let it dry and then take your iron and run over it a few passes to get that heat," Murphy said.

Steam N95 masks

N95 Masks, which are meant for first-responders and medical personnel, shouldn't be laundered because hot soapy water may disintegrate their important protective paper layers.

If it's absolutely necessary to reuse them, they can be disinfected at home using steam, said New York University public health professor Dr. Jack Caravanos. 

"You're going to need a large pot with about an inch and a half of water, bring that to a boil," Caravanos said.

He said to put the masks in a vegetable strainer above the water line and use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature stays at over 150 degrees for about 10 to 20 minutes.

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