Surgical masks can be washed and reused: here’s how

Surgical masks can be washed in the washing machine at 60° and reused up to 5 times, without losing their effectiveness

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© Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

Wash and reuse surgical masks: can you? According to the italian Altroconsumo, you can: the performance of disposable products remains unchanged even after 5 washes in the washing machine. Fundamental tools for the prevention of Covid-19 contagion, among the most common types of masks there are the surgical ones, which guarantee protection from the virus but which at the same time are generating a serious environmental impact.

According to the Ministry of Education, University and Research, it is possible to wear both disposable and fabric masks, even self-made, in the classrooms. However, many schools only allow the use of surgical techniques as in our country there is no standard that certifies the validity of those in fabric. According to the Altroconsumo analysis, considering the number of Italian students (6,763,544) and the hours of lessons, the number of masks used exceeds 33 million in a week. This huge amount corresponds to 135 tons of waste and 118 tons of CO2.

Analyzing a sample of masks (not representative) distributed in Italian schools, it was found that it is possible to reuse the devices, washing them in the washing machine, at least 5 times. The association first of all analyzed the filtration and breathability of masks distributed in schools: all the products obtained excellent evaluations in terms of filtration, the breathability of 1 of the products could be improved. Secondly, it was verified whether there was a change in the performance of these products after 5 washes at 60° (intense washing to test the masks under stress conditions) demonstrating that, not only all masks maintain the filtering properties unchanged but improve even in terms of breathability.

Similar studies had been carried out in France, where numerous organizations asked the same question and demonstrated, through laboratory tests, that surgical masks can be washed in the washing machine at 60 °, dried in the dryer and reused up to 10 times, without lose its effectiveness.

“The results of our analyzes could lead to rethinking the way students and citizens use disposable masks and effectively reduce the waste of these products, which we will have to use for a long time to come. We believe it is essential to spread an educational message on the use of these protective devices by modifying the instructions for use. But not only that: it is also important to introduce a standard that allows people to correctly and safely identify the effective and reliable fabric and washable community masks, in order to contribute to the effective reduction of waste and the impact that pandemic is having on the environment ”declared Ivo Tarantino, Head of External Relations at Altroconsumo.

Tips for washing the masks

Wash the masks with normal laundry, in order to optimize the number of washes

Temperature: the tests were carried out at 60 ° to measure the tightness of the masks in more stressful conditions, but 30 ° is enough for sanitization (which also allows less pollution)

Avoid adding additives that contribute to the pollution of the planet.

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