The One Sign You Need To Replace Your Fabric Face Mask

With new and more easily transmissible variants of COVID-19 emerging around the world, wearing a properly fitted face mask is more important than ever. Fabric face masks are a popular and eco-friendly alternative to disposable masks, but they can also lose their effectiveness over time. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your fabric mask after every use, there is no official guidance detailing how often they should be replaced. So how can you tell when it's time to buy a new mask?

The single most important sign that you need to replace your face mask is if it becomes too loose and no longer fits. Your mask cannot protect you if it doesn't fit properly. Whether the straps are worn or the fabric has stretched out, wearing a mask that is no longer snug or has gaps around the sides defeats the purpose of wearing it in the first place (via The Washington Post). This is because viral particles can easily travel through a loose mask, putting both yourself and others at risk.

Other signs it's time to get a new mask

Even if your fabric face mask fits properly, however, you still might need to replace it. If your mask is wet or stained, it has most likely reached its expiration date. "If the mask is visibly soiled and washing does not remove the stain, it's probably time to toss it," Dr. Christina M. Madison, a clinical public health and infectious disease expert, told HuffPost. "A stained mask has probably been overused and needs replacing."

You should also replace your face mask if it's been washed more than 30 times. After a few dozen washes, your mask will lose its shape and become stretched out, making it much less effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. While it's important to wash your mask after every wear, it's just as important to replace it when it has been washed too many times.

Lastly, you should buy a new face mask if you develop any upper respiratory symptoms or come into contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19 (via Martha Stewart.) You can properly dispose of your mask by taking it off using only the straps and placing it in your trash can at home.