With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state of Illinois highly recommending that people help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) by wearing cloth face coverings in public settings and especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain, it is important to wear masks to keep yourself and others safe.
For those who have questions about mask cleanliness and how to wear them with eyeglasses, the HSHS Illinois hospitals including HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham are offering these mask tips for safety and comfort.
Washing Your Cloth Face Covering
The CDC recommends that you wash your cloth face covering after each use. Depending on how you intend to wash or dry your face covering, follow these steps to ensure they are as clean as possible.
• Wash your face covering in the washing machine with your regular laundry and your regular laundry detergent.
• Use the warmest appropriate water setting for the material used to make the face covering.
• Use a bleach solution, if washing by hand, according to the CDC:
− 5 tablespoons (one-third cup) household bleach per gallon of room temperature water OR
− 4 teaspoons household bleach per quart of room temperature water.
• Check the label on your bleach bottle to see if it is intended for disinfection. Some bleach products (for example, those for safe use on colored clothing) may not disinfect. Ensure the bleach product is not expired as well.
• NEVER mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
• Soak the face covering in the bleach solution for five minutes and rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.
• Use the highest heat setting, if using a dryer, and leave it in the dryer until completely dry.
• Lay flat, if air drying, and let it completely dry. If possible, lay the cloth face covering in direct sunlight as it is drying.
Preventing Skin Irritation
For those who must wear a mask for an extended period at work, masks can cause irritation to the skin, either under the mask from the moisture and humidity caused by breathing, or behind the ears from the ear loops. Follow these steps to prevent skin irritation.
• Wear a mask that fits you well, not too loose and not too tight.
• Make sure your cloth mask is made of a gentle fabric and wash it out completely to remove any laundry detergents and fabric softeners residue.
• Consider not wearing makeup, perfumes, or anything that has dyes or preservatives underneath the mask if you will be wearing your mask all day. Putting on a gentle face moisturizer on your skin, especially where the mask will rest on your face, could help prevent possible irritation.
• Know that a mask with ear loops can irritate the backs of the ears if worn over an extended period. You can get masks that have ties, or you can purchase accessories that the ear loops can attach to rather than resting on the back of your ears.
• Watch for irritation on specific places on your skin (such as on the bridge of the nose, on your chin or behind the ears), and try using a zinc oxide cream.
• Pay attention to if you continue to have a skin irritation such as rash-like acne or other conditions that are not improving, contact a dermatologist.
Wearing a Mask with Glasses
It may seem like a small matter, but one of the most common annoyances with wearing masks is how it can fog up glasses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) explains that this is caused when warm breath escapes from the top of your mask and lands on the cooler surface of your lens.
The following tips may help prevent your face mask from fogging up your eyewear.
• Make sure your mask fits your face. An ill-fitting mask will allow warm air to escape and fog up your lenses.
• Make sure to pinch the top of the mask to fit the shape of your nose if you have a mask that included a wire at the top. If you can tighten your mask, tighten the sides for a good fit.
• Try using medical or athletic tape or even an adhesive bandage to close the gap between the bridge of your nose and the top of your mask if you have a cloth mask that fits loose enough to allow warm air to escape at the top.
• Wipe your lenses with an anti-fogging solution or gently wash your lenses with soap and water before wearing them to help keep water droplets from building up and fogging your lenses.
• Push your glasses forward on your nose to allow more air to circulate to keep your breath from fogging up the lenses.
• Try pulling your mask up over your nose and rest your glasses on top of it to block the air from escaping and causing fogging. If you try this method, make sure your mask still fits properly over your face to completely cover your nose and mouth.
For more information on using cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.