Cloth coronavirus face masks work – but only if you do so after wearing them, the study found

Cloth face masks are useful in protecting against novel coronoviruses – but only if you wash them after every use, according to a new study that found these face coverings to be reused without repeated washes of contamination The risk may increase.

According to a recent analysis by the Kirby Institute of the University of New South Wales in Sydney at the BMJ Open, the mask must be washed at high temperatures after each use of the mask.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that cloth face masks will be washed with laundry detergent and water that is at least 60 degrees Celsius – or about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (IStock)

The analysis is based on a randomized controlled trial published in 2015 that looked at how effective clothing face masks are in preventing viral infections from common respiratory pathogens such as the flu, rhinoviruses (common cold virus), and seasonal coronaviews. Studies conducted at the time found that two-level cotton cloth masks “were not as effective as surgical masks in hospital settings and that they are at increased risk of infection when compared to wearing masks,” a news report. According to the release. University. However, researchers now conducting new analyzes argue that the way the clothes masks were washed may explain why they performed so poorly in the original study.

More specifically, the so-called “washing data” was self-reported in 2011 by health care workers in Vietnam who worked in “high-risk wards in health care settings” according to the news release at the time. According to the study, the researchers analyzed, which is the only randomized controlled trial “ever conducted on the efficacy of cloth masks in preventing viral infections.”

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Most health care workers in the original study – about 77% – reported washing their masks by hand. But in the analysis, researchers found that health care workers’ risk of infection more than doubled when their clothing facial masks were washed in such a way that masks were washed in a hospital washing machine.

What’s more, there was no significant difference in transition between ” [health care workers] Clothes worn in hospital laundry along with medical masks were wearing masks, ”the analysis concluded.

In fact: “Given the potential effects for health workers or community members who are using cloth masks during the epidemic, we took a deep dive into the 2011 data on whether health workers in our study use their masks daily Washes, and if so, how they washed their masks. We found that if clothes masks were washed in hospital laundry, they were effective as a surgical mask, “Professor of the University of New South Wales – Sydney Raina McIntire, who studied, said in a statement.

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In the original study, researchers did not test SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because the virus was not present at the time. But researchers conducting analyzes at BMJ Open argue that previous findings may still apply to novel viruses.

“Both cloth masks and surgical masks should be considered ‘contaminated’ after use,” McIntyre said. “Unlike surgical masks, which are disposed after use, clothes masks are reused. While it may tempt one to use the same mask for several consecutive days or to wash or wipe it quickly, our research suggests that it increases the risk of contamination. ”


“It has become a flashpoint for the debate around clothes masks between pro and anti mask groups, both of which have focused on our 2015 study in their argument – but a more detailed look at the washout data suggests That hand-washing made masks rather than cloth masks is riskier. When we break data in this new way, machine washing is done by handwashing, machine-washed cloth masks are as effective as surgical masks. Is, “McIntyre continued.” There is a lot of research on the design, fabric and manufacture of masks, but washing is also important for safety. ”

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that cloth face masks must be washed with laundry detergent and water that is at least 60 ° C – or about 140 ° F.

“The results of our analysis support this recommendation,” McIntire said. “The clear message from this research is that cloth masks work – but once a cloth mask is worn, it must be washed properly every time before wearing it again, otherwise it stops being effective.”

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