Mastering the art of mask wearing

Ryleigh Hayworth, Editor-in-Chief

Since April 2020, the Center for Disease Control has recommended that when in public individuals wear face masks in order to prevent the spread of droplets carrying the COVID-19 virus. Masks are just one element in the toolbox of guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and they are especially important in scenarios where other precautions, such as maintaining adequate social distancing or staying home cannot be followed. 


According to the CDC, masks are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by trapping the droplets of a person carrying the virus within the barrier and preventing another person from breathing in those droplets. A person carrying the virus may be asymptomatic, so in order to actually prevent the spread of the virus, everyone needs to wear a mask, whether they are ill or not. Governor Kim Reynolds has refused to enact a mask mandate, requiring Iowans to wear masks while in public, despite a White House request that she do so. This leaves the decision to wear a mask up to individuals and businesses. 


Not all masks are made equal. Disposable masks, often distributed by businesses and doctors offices, are an effective way to prevent virus spread. Commonly seen are reusable cotton masks, made from tightly woven cotton to prevent droplets from entering the air. Masks made from other materials may not be as effective. Surgical masks or N95 masks are effective as well, but these are supplies reserved for medical professionals. 


Using a mask safely is more complicated than putting it on and taking it off.

  • Your hands should be washed before you put your mask on
  • Your mask needs to cover your nose and mouth
  • Your mask should NOT have a vent or hole through which to breathe
  • You should not touch your mask while wearing it
  • You need to remove it by touching only the ties or ear straps
  • You need to wask your masks after every wear


Washing a reusable cotton mask can be done in two ways: in the washing machine or by hand. 

Washing by machine

  1. Place mask(s) in the washing machine (can be with other clothing)
  2. Use regular laundry detergent
  3. Wash on the hottest setting the fabric allows
  4. Dry as normal (lay flat or place in dryer)


Washing by hand

  1. Find sink or container in which to prepare a bleach solution
  2. Mix a solution with a ratio of 4 teaspoons of disinfecting bleach to 1 quart of room temperature water
  3. Soak mask(s) in solution for 5 minutes
  4. Rinse thoroughly with room temperature water
  5. Lay flat to dry