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

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.

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.

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