How To Know If It's Time To Replace Your Fabric Face Mask

It's safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has gone longer than any of us would have liked, but most of us have learned to adjust to our new reality. We've become pros at social distancing, have developed solid hand washing habits, and have become accustomed to wearing face masks out in public.

Many people who are wearing fabric face masks during the pandemic have collected an assortment of them in various fabrics and prints. While you may think that you have enough masks to get you through the rest of the pandemic — it looks like we may be getting close to a viable vaccine, after all — you might need to invest in a few more.

Like anything made out of cloth, fabric face masks are susceptible to wear and tear. If you've been wearing and washing your favorite fabric face mask for the past few months, it might be time to toss it and replace it with a new one.

How do you know if your fabric face mask has worn out?

"Since the basic principle of masks works by blocking the distance droplets travel, cloth masks will become less effective the more they get washed as they become more threadbare," said Jon Chan, the Lab Manager of Testing at USA Today's Reviewed.

How can you tell if your fabric face mask is at the end of its life? A lot depends on how often you've used it, how much you've washed it, and how often you take it on and off, but be warned that they may wear out quicker than you think. "Think about masks like seasonal attire," Krys Johnson, an epidemiologist and an assistant professor at Temple University, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "Update every season."

If the elastics of the mask seem loose, it might be time for a replacement. Once your mask is no longer snug against your face, it loses a lot of its effectiveness. If you're constantly having to adjust your mask to make it fit properly, get a new one. Also toss out masks that have any tears or holes, as well as masks that you can see through when you hold them up to the light.