On Friday May 1st Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced the end of the Stay-at-Home order and the start of his 5-Stage plan to return the state to normal working conditions. “Back on Track Indiana” lays out the timeline of each stage with the planned end date of July 4th to mark the official end of any regulations. Currently we are about halfway through Stage 3 and life is beginning to start up again. Gyms, restaurants, and most retail shopping have slowly reopened but to say that we are back to normal would be an overstatement. Office spaces and bars are still closed for the most part and the businesses that have reopened have done so under a watchful eye from health officials. Both health and government officials have warned that a resurgence in COVID-19 cases will only reset previous stay-at-home orders. Thus, it is important that we all continue to be safe and cautious when out in public. Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Back on Track Indiana guidelines still recommend wearing a facial covering of some kind when out in public. 

If your mask is visibly soiled, it is recommended to discard it rather than try to reuse it.

The CDC has even gone as far as citing scientific studies that show face coverings are the easiest way for a community to slow the spread of COVID-19. In other words, we should all be wearing face coverings if we want to keep the trend of reopening alive. Some national chains like Costco and Menards are even banning shoppers who do not have some sort of face covering. However, wearing the mask only works if you know how to keep them sanitary.

Shopping safely with a mask

Just like the clothes on your back your mask gets dirty every time you wear it. Don’t believe me? Think of it like this, the main reason why face masks are important for stopping the spread of COVID-19 is because they block the moisture and saliva that comes from your mouth while you are speaking or even breathing.

Whether you have notice or not, we all release moisture from our mouths. This moisture collects on the mask and can harbor some nasty germs. The same germs that make your breath stink and quite possibly make you sick. Thus, it is important to think of your mask as a toxic article of clothing. For this reason, it is best to store your mask in a place where it cannot spread these germs. Some medical professions use paper bags or plastic food storage containers as a safe clean holding spot. I myself like to hang my face mask off my rearview mirror like a pair of fuzzy dice. This is a great spot because I never forget to take it with me when I am running errands, and it also allows the mask to sit out in the UV rays, something that we will touch on more later in this post. You should also make a habit of washing your hands with soap and water or alcohol every time after you touch your mask. It’s also important that you regularly clean your mask as well. However, the method you use to clean greatly varies depending on what type of material was used to make your mask.

Shopping safely wearing a mask

With N95 and surgical masks being reserved for medical workers and first responders, people are definitely getting creative when it comes to what counts as a facial covering. However, for the most part they can fall into three separate categories. We have separated the care instructions for each of the three basic categories.

N95 and KN95

N95 or KN95 Masks

Although the N95 is mainly reserved for first responders and medical professionals. It is still important to spread the word on how to keep these masks clean as they cannot be washed like cloth masks. Yes, N95 and its civilian counterpart KN95 are made with a much more delicate combination of cotton filters. Thus, throwing these masks in your laundry machine would only damage them. Your next thought when it comes to cleaning a N95 or KN95 is probably spraying it with disinfectant spray. I know that is what I was doing to clean my mask at first, that is until I did some research of my own. Medical experts actually warn against doing this as these disinfect chemicals can actually be pretty toxic if ingested. So, the idea of soaking them into something you put directly over your mouth and nose is not the best idea. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study shows that UV light may actually be the best way to decontaminate these types of masks. Researchers reported that exposing the masks to dry heath or UV light for 60 minutes was enough to eliminate detectable SARS-CoV-2 virus from the fabric test samples. In other words, my rear-view mirror might not be a bad storage place after all. However, the study and the CDC both still caution that N95 masks shouldn’t be reused more than 3-5 times. That’s why it is best to buy a couple packs of these masks

N95 KN95 Mask comparison chart

DIY Cloth Mask or Bandanna

Cloth or DIY are definitely the most common types of face coverings that you will encounter. Plus depending on who made it, they might just be the most stylish too! When it comes to cloth face masks the CDC has a real easy guide on how you can keep your cloth mask clean. Unlike the N95 masks you can either throw these in the washing machine or wash them by hand. Just make sure that you are using some form of a chemical cleaner like bleach or laundry detergent. It is also important that you use warm water and give your mask plenty of time to dry. By letting it dry and the sunlight you can also take advantage of the UV light cleansing process mentioned earlier in this post.

Surgical Mask

Unfortunately, Surgical Masks are kind of in a weird middle ground when it comes to face masks. They may not be as effective as the N95 or KN95, but studies show that they are still better than homemade ones. Just like N95 masks, you cannot physically wash these masks by hand or in the laundry machine. In fact, it is actually best practice to throw away these surgical masks after just one use. This is why surgical masks are commonly sold in packs of high quantities. Thus, if you do have to reuse a surgical face mask then medical experts advise that you at least store it in an isolated container for a minimum of two days between each use. That way you can give the bacteria and viruses time to die off before you place the mask back over your nose and mouth.

Keep it Clean

No matter what face covering you decide on wearing we hope that you have gained some insight on how to properly clean and maintain it. Face coverings are one of the easiest ways we can do our part to ensure everyone is safe. It is nice to see businesses reopening their doors but we must not forget why they closed in the first place. As always, you can count on ICC Business Products to provide you with everything you need to run your business safely.  Whether it’s COVID-19 Essentials or just plain paper and ink, ICC has it all! You can visit us online or contact us at salesdesk@iccbpi.com.

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