25.07.2020 – Blog / Apartment block, private home

Washing fabric masks correctly

Why protective masks

Even before masks were made compulsory in Switzerland, the first commuters were seen wearing disposable or home-made fabric masks to protect themselves against coronavirus. Since there were not enough hygiene masks for everyday use for a long time, the federal government held back with an ordinance for protective masks. Since 6 July 2020, there has been a general obligation to wear masks on public transport in Switzerland, as there are now enough hygiene masks for everyday use.

The right mask

In trams, buses and trains, you now encounter the most diverse versions of face coverings. On the one hand, of course, disposable masks – already mentioned – are worn. But home-made or bought fabric masks, Plexiglas visors and freshly washed scarves wrapped around the mouth and nose are also common. Anyone not wearing a mask will be eyed suspiciously by other passengers and may be asked to leave the vehicle by security staff.

When it comes to the choice between fabric and disposable masks, many go for the fabric mask. Many find these more aesthetic, and they can be combined with other garments and produce less waste. But do fabric masks protect as well as conventional disposable hygiene masks? And how do you wash them correctly in the washing machine?


Fabric masks also have their uses. Like medical face masks, they primarily protect the environment by stopping droplets of fluid that are dispersed when you speak, cough or sneeze. To a small extent, they also provide some self-protection by keeping larger liquid particles out of the air. For this reason, the mask should be made of fabric that is woven as tightly as possible so that only the smallest droplets can penetrate through the fine meshes. It is also important that the fabric is breathable, supple and, above all, hot-washable, which is why cotton is preferable.

Advantages of fabric masks

Apart from the visual aspect already mentioned, fabric masks are also more comfortable to wear and are cheaper in the long term than always having to buy new disposable masks. Reusable fabric masks are also a zero-waste product. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more and more disposable masks have been found on beaches or in bushes, where they slowly decompose into microplastic, which is extremely harmful to animals that ingest it with their food. Using respiratory protection masks not only eliminates waste, but also the production and transport of disposable masks, which is why fabric masks are much more sustainable.

The right approach

The most important thing for the effectiveness of a mask is professional handling and thus also correct washing in the machine.

Basically, there are three important rules of conduct when dealing with the mask:

  • Before putting on and taking off the mask, wash or disinfect the hands to avoid transferring any viruses on the hands to the mask.
  • When putting on or taking off the mask, it should only be held by the straps on the outside. If the mask has a wire frame on the upper edge, it should be bent slightly to fit the face.
  • You should not touch the mask while wearing it, otherwise viruses can be transmitted to your face via your hands.

Cleaning and disinfecting protective masks

Selecting the right temperature for the washing process

All fabric masks should be washed before first use and, if possible, after each subsequent occasion on which they have been worn. In any case, the mask must be washed if it is damp from breathing air after wearing.

Selecting the right temperature for the washing process

The Covid-19 virus is temperature-sensitive and dies off at a temperature of 59°C or higher. Fat-dissolving substances are also able to destroy the surface of the virus.

A possible option for ridding fabric masks of germs is therefore heating them in the oven or microwave or ironing them hot. One of the disadvantages is the risk of damaging the fabric with the heat. The simplest and safest option, which is also officially recommended, is to wash the mask in the washing machine.

Washing in the washing machin

To ensure that the mask is clean and germ-free for the next use, it must be washed correctly. This can be achieved by sticking to the following points:

  • If the mask contains a wire frame to fit the face, this should be removed before washing if possible. Otherwise, you can wash the mask in a laundry bag so that the frame does not tear holes in other garments.
  • You should wash masks in the washing machine at a minimum temperature of 60°C to kill any possible viruses. The standard programme should be selected instead of an Eco programme, because the washing temperature is usually too low in Eco programmes.
  • Normal heavy-duty detergent (or home-made detergent based on washing soda) can be used as a detergent.
  • Extra disinfection is generally not necessary. If you still want to do this, e.g. after contact with a confirmed corona patient, you can also wash the mask in the washing machine at 90°C with oxygen bleach. Oxygen bleach is more environmentally friendly than hygiene rinse and has the same effect on the masks.
  • After washing, you should also put the masks in the dryer – at the highest possible temperature that the fabric permits. If you do not have a dryer, you should hang the mask outside to dry. The sun’s rays and the movement of the air quickly dry the masks completely.

Ayla Martis