Coronavirus fact check: Is microwaving a fabric mask a good way to sanitize it?

Coronavirus fact check: Is microwaving a fabric mask a good way to sanitize it?
JENA, GERMANY - APRIL 03: Self-sewn protective face masks in a fabric store on April 3, 2020 in Jena, Germany. A three-part city ordinance is going into effect requiring people to wear protective face masks under circumstances that include shopping, riding public transport and workplaces where social distancing is difficult. A face mask requirement is a current issue of controversy across Germany, with the federal government so far declining to make wearing one in public mandatory. Germany is struggling with a shortage of face masks, and the requirement in Jena also allows the use of scarves and other materials to shield one's face as a means to reduce the risk of anyone infected with Covid-19 from infecting others. (Photo by Jens Schlueter/Getty Images /Getty Images)

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear a face mask if they have to leave their homes to go on essential errands such as a trip to the pharmacy or grocery shopping.

Since masks such as N-95 respirators or surgical masks are in short supply and mostly only available to health care workers, the CDC recommended people use a piece of cloth as a mask – a bandanna or even a mask made from a T-shirt.

While many Americans have turned to do-it-yourself templates to make the cloth face coverings, not that many people seem sure of what to do with them once they have been used.

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Suggestions on social media range from spraying them with a disinfectant such as Clorox to hand-washing them in your bathroom sink.

One suggestion that has been shared thousands of times involves sanitizing the mask in a microwave. This Facebook post has been shared more than 7,000 times.“Those that use a fabric mask – after wearing place in ziplock bag and microwave 2-3 minutes to sanitize. Do this after each wear,” reads the post.

While it may seem like a reasonable idea to zap the virus by microwaving the masks for a few minutes, the reality can be dangerous. The cloth can burst into flames.

The Las Vegas Fire Department offered this alert:

Others have shared their personal stories:

A CDC guide to mask use suggests the cloth masks be cleaned regularly, and that they should “be able to be laundered … without damage or change to shape.”

How should you clean a cloth mask? The University of Utah offers some great information about how to make, use and clean a cloth mask.

According to the site, the best way to sanitize a mask is to launder it in your washing machine in hot water using a detergent that leaves no residue, then drying it in a hot dryer.

The soap, hot water and heat from the dryer will kill COVID-19.

Some people are having trouble following the CDC recommendations to wear a mask when they go out because they cannot find a mask to buy.

If you cannot find a mask to purchase, here is a tutorial on how you can sew one.

If you do not know how to sew, here is a guide to making a mask using a non-sew method. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams demonstrates how it is made.