Should I wash my fabric face mask at 60 degrees?

Reader question: How often should I wash my reusable mask and is it true that I have to wash it at 60 degrees?

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Short answer: every day (after usage) and no.

There have been countless media articles stating that reusable, fabric masks should be washed at 60 degrees in a washing machine.

This advice also appears on the government’s website, which states reusable masks must be washed for 30 minutes at 60 degrees to be cleaned.

Now France’s Académie Nationale de Médecine offered differing advice in a press release published this week.

“[Reusable masks] can be washed by hand or in the machine, with a detergent, just like underwear. The temperature of 60°C is no more justified for washing masks than it is for washing hands,” it said.

Yves Buisson, president of the Académie Nationale de Médecine’s Covid-19 branch, told France Info that the virus is quite “fragile”.

“It is a fat-enveloped virus and viruses of this type are fragile. If the mask is washed with a detergent at 30°C, it is enough to destroy the virus,” he said.

Pénélope Vincent-Sweet, who works as a volunteer in prevention and waste management for France Nature Environnement, said that advice to wash masks at 60 degrees was “rubbish”.

“The scientific articles say that if you wash them with soap and then you dry them - especially in sunlight - there is no way you’re going to have germs left on your mask,” she told Connexion in a phone call earlier in September.

She said that people were confused by the 60 degrees advice and might believe that reusable masks are not hygienic, leading some people to favour single-use masks, which are bad for the environment.

In the same press release, Académie Nationale de Médecine urged people to use reusable masks rather than single-use masks, for environmental and economic reasons.

You can read more about the price difference between single-use and fabric masks here.

As for how often people should wash their masks, the Académie answers that too: “They should be changed when they become damp and never be worn for more than a day.”

Connexion readers reported different habits on how they wash their reusable masks, in response to a question posed on Facebook.

Several readers said that they wash their mask at 50 or 60 degrees, and others at 40 degrees or by hand washing them.

Carrie Theyer said: “I have enough to be able to wash them after each wearing, even [every] one hour. They go in the machine at 40 [degrees].”

Siobhan McCabe said: “I just wash mine after each day, either cold or 30 or 40.. Whatever I'm washing at the time.”

Masks in the dishwasher?

In related mask news, a French company has designed a range of masks (see above picture) that can be cleaned by putting the filters in a dishwasher or even boiling them.

Dedienne Multiplasturgy Group, a specialist in the design and manufacture of high-performance plastic, came up with the creation during the height of the pandemic when production on their other products came to a virtual standstill.

Pierre-Jean Leduc, president of the company, told France Bleu that the masks were sustainable, even if they were made of plastic. The company says they are bio-sourced, 100% recyclable and can be used over and over again.

"You just have to change the filter, either you wash it or throw it away," he said.

By reusing the filters, "we manage to pollute more than three hundred times less than we would with a disposable mask".

The masks are called Protectiv, and cost between €24 and €68.90.

Read more about masks:

The environmental disaster of single-use masks in France

Nabila Ramdani: masks have dramatically changed daily life

300,000 clear masks to be distributed in French schools