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An expert has warned that many people may not be washing their face masks enough, saying we should be cleaning them after each use or throwing away disposable coverings when we've worn them.
Wearing masks in the UK became compulsory in many indoor public spaces earlier this year, excluding those who are exempt, but it seems many Brits still don't know how they should be using them.
A YouGov poll in August found that just 13 percent of people wearing reusable masks were washing them frequently enough, and in the right way, while 56 percent of those using disposable masks wore theirs more than once.
Dr Tina Joshi, a lecturer in molecular microbiology at the University of Plymouth, has said we need to be washing reusable coverings after each use - as if it's contaminated as soon as it's been worn.
Referencing World Health Organisation guidelines, which recommend washing them 'at least once a day', Joshi told the Daily Mail: "I would go further and say you shouldn't be washing it just daily, but after every use.
"So every time you've been out and come home, remove it immediately, wash it, and wash your hands. Treat it like it's contaminated once you've worn it.
"It may sound excessive, but if you've been around others outside your bubble you can't know whether you've picked up infected droplets or not.
"You don't have to run it through the washing machine each time: any biological detergent is suitable. I wash mine by hand with washing-up liquid, scrub it, and put it out to dry."
Joshi advises owning at least two reusable masks, meaning you've 'always got one being washed and one that's clean and ready to go'.
While the government advises washing reusable coverings 'in line with manufacturers' instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric', Joshi argues that this may not be necessary.
"Most biological cleaning agents would work at lower temperatures," she said.
And if you're out all day and find yourself unable to wash your mask, there are ways you can disinfect it instead while out and about.
Joshi added: "I've got 70 percent ethanol in the lab, and I'll spray it on the exterior of my mask throughout the day. Any 70 percent alcohol spray will do the same job.
"The alcohol will disrupt the virus sheath and disable it - but it won't affect whatever's embedded in the fabric layers. That's why the whole washing process is needed as often as possible."
What's important, Joshi said, is that we ensure we're using face coverings 'properly', saying they're designed to protect others from infected droplets that our breath might release into the air.
"It can also help stop us breathing in anyone else's infected droplets," she said.
"But it will only work as a barrier if we use it properly."
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