How often do you really need to clean your face mask?

If you're one of the many people wearing a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic, you may have wondered just how you're supposed to keep them clean. Not only are face masks exposed to germs every time you leave your home, but they're also in contact with your own face. Face masks obviously need to be kept clean, but just how often do they need to be washed?

According to Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, cloth face masks should be washed regularly, and not by hand. "These should ideally be washed after every use in a washing machine, if possible," she told CBSN.

Your face mask is potentially exposed to COVID-19 each time you leave your house, so you should take extra precautions when removing the mask. "Be really careful to not touch your eyes, or your nose, or your mouth when you're taking off your mask, and then of course, wash your hands immediately afterward," said Ungerleider.

Disposable face masks should be thrown out, not cleaned

If you have disposable face masks, you shouldn't be cleaning and recycling them, but you don't necessarily have to toss them after a single use. Michigan's Ingham County Health Officer, Linda Vail, told WLNS that — unless you're working in the medical field — replacing your mask once a day is acceptable. This means that if you make more than one trip out of the house in one day, it's safe to put on the same mask for each trip, but you should still dispose of your face mask at the end of the day.

Vail added that if you can't clean your cloth masks in the washing machine and put them in the dryer each day, you should wash them with hot water and soap and then hang them to dry. Whatever you do, do not put your face mask in the microwave, as this could make them catch on fire (per Good Housekeeping).