Face masks in France: How to wash and reuse safely
Reusable fabric face masks are to be widely available in France as deconfinement begins on May 11, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said, with advice now being issued on how to best use and reuse them.
Mr Philippe said: “From the time that we are no longer in a confinement situation, it will become even more important to respect barrier methods and social distancing. For this, it makes sense to wear a mask in certain situations.”
He acknowledged that there had been a “lack” of masks in France, and said: “There will be enough masks in the country for our needs from May 11. Pharmacies and supermarkets are [now] invited to sell disposable or washable masks.”
At the beginning of April, national medical body l'Académie Nationale de Médecine recommended that wearing a mask when leaving the house should be made compulsory as soon as confinement measures are lifted on May 11 (although the government has stopped short of making them mandatory).
Pharmacies are now permitted to sell masks to the general public, in a U-turn on a previous government decree, which had banned the sale of any kind of mask.
The masks sold will not be suitable for use by health professionals, but will be either disposable or made of fabric; and recommended for use by the general public for normal outings, such as going to the supermarket or using public transport.
Each mask will be required to be sold with an official logo of quality, created by the French economy ministry. The logo will show that the mask has “guaranteed filtration (filtration garantie)”, and will also show how many times the mask can be safely washed and reused.
This will extend from "testé 5 lavages" (tested for 5 washes), "testé 10 lavages" (tested for 10 washes), "testé 20 lavages" (tested for 20 washes) and "testé 30 lavages" (tested for 30 washes).
The most basic, simple, disposable masks cost around €2-€5 each, said the minister for health; while those of a higher quality, which will withstand washing at 60°C many times, are likely to cost around €15-€20 each.
There have also been calls for pharmacies to distribute masks to vulnerable or disadvantaged people free of charge.
Junior health secretary Agnès Pannier-Runacher told newspaper Les Echos magazine on Friday (April 24): “Several distribution methods have been identified to allow as many French people as possible to access them. The possibilities are very wide.”
With masks set to become widely available, and be likely recommended in public spaces after May 11, advice has now been issued on how to safely wear a mask, and how to wash and dry it properly after use.
National standardisation association l'Association française de normalisation (Afnor), has recommended that you wash your mask after each use, especially if it has been “stained”, “become wet”, or been poorly placed over the nose and mouth during wear.
The mask must cover your nose and mouth closely during use. See this page for more advice on how to wear a mask safely and correctly.
Washing and caring for your mask after use
- Wash the mask at 60°C in your usual washing machine, for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise, wash it thoroughly by hand in hot water. Use your normal clothes washing liquid or soap
- It is recommended that you wash masks on their own cycle, and do not add them to a larger clothes or wash load
- Dry the washed mask with a hair dryer or a clothes dryer within two hours of it being washed
- If the mask becomes damaged, ripped, or gets a hole in it, throw it away and use a new mask
- You do not need to “disinfect” or clean your washing machine after each use, unless you have accidentally washed the mask on a temperature lower than 60°C. If this happens, you can rinse your washing machine with bleach, and run an empty cycle at 60-95°C before continuing
- If you are not able to wash your mask at all, you are advised to place it in a sealed box - which has been washed with bleach - for one week before taking it out to reuse it
- Heating or drying a mask in the microwave or oven
- Ironing a mask without having washed it first
- Using alcohol-based or bleach-based cleaners on the mask fabric
- Allowing a mask to dry naturally on a clothes rack or outside clothes line
- Deconfinement in France: Masks, tests and shops
- Covid-19 masks: Advice issued in France on safe use
- Pharmacies in France will now sell face masks
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France