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Mayo Clinic doctor answers your questions about masks

How often do you have to wash the mask? That's just one example of some good questions our viewers are asking.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — We took your questions straight to a national expert on infectious disease, Dr. Greg Poland with Mayo Clinic, Rochester.

Kathy G. asked, "How many times can you wear [a mask] before washing?"

Poland answered, "Once. That's the simple answer. You can wear it for several hours."

But Poland says, once the mask is wet from your exhaled breath or you've worn it for a few hours, "Take it off and wash it." 

Poland says just put the mask in your washing machine with your laundry. It will not contaminate your other clothes. Soap, he says, inactivates the virus. It's the same reason we're all washing our hands, or we're supposed to ...

Niki and Christina both asked if adding another layer, like an air filter or a coffee filter, inside the cloth mask would help protect you. 

Poland said, "Air filters can give you extra protection. Yes. You can wear coffee filters, too. Basically, with additional layers, these cloth masks work best." 

He says the key is a tight weave. He does not recommend using scarves, though, because the "material is too porous."  He says studies show sweatshirt material works well. Clean socks would even work, he says. 

April asks, "What is the proper way to take off the mask?"

Poland explained, "Never, ever touch the front of the mask. Don't touch it."

You will contaminate yourself, he says. Poland explained to reach behind your ears and carefully grab the string or whatever you're using to keep it on your face. Then put it directly into the wash.

"People think they know how to wear masks," Poland said, "but if they're not trained in medicine, they usually don't."

Credit: Mayo

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