Reusable tissue facial masks are cheaper than buying disposable medical masks, are easier to find and can be customized to fit the face for a better seal. The only downside is that these masks must be washed regularly to get rid of bacteria and viruses that can stick to tissue; failing to do this means that you can transfer them to surfaces whenever you touch your mask and then touch a surface.
A new study published by the American Chemical Society details the development of a new type of cotton facial mask that can be disinfected by leaving it exposed to the sun for an hour. The idea is that you can forget to wash your mask every now and then, but it’s much easier to place it on a window sill, hang it on your car’s rearview mirror, or place it on an outside surface during the break from lunch.
The face mask is made of ordinary cotton fabric that has been modified to release reactive oxygen species (ROS) under exposure to sunlight. This tissue was discovered to kill 99.9999 percent of a virus resistant to ROS, as well as bacteria, in a single hour.
The fabric is washable and able to withstand being washed by hand “at least 10 times”, according to the study. Washing with hot water and soap is still the recommended way to disinfect the masks, but exposure to sunlight during the day can serve as a beneficial practice to help reduce pathogens transferred from the mask to surfaces during times when washing it is not practical.
This antimicrobial tissue may one day find use in face masks, as well as in protective clothing, in situations such as virus outbreaks to help reduce surface contamination. It is not clear at this point whether the researchers plan to commercialize their exclusive fabric, however.
Note: The CDC has provided guidance on best safety practices related to facial coverings, including the storage of dirty masks and ways to wash them.