Study shows there's one thing that makes cloth face masks more effective

October 14, 2020

    The coronavirus pandemic has left a lot of time on people's hands. Some have turned to baking while others are cranking out homemade masks for their friends and family. But do these cloth face masks really do the job?

    A recent study has shown that cloth face masks can be effective in keeping coronavirus transmission to a minimum, but you have to wash them after every use.

    Additionally, the washing is more effective at high temperatures to ensure that they're thoroughly decontaminated, Fox News reports based off of study analysis from the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales at Sydney.

    The original study, which was published in 2015, concluded that surgical masks were much more effective than cloth masks in preventing illness in wearers. However, new analysis suggests that the way they washed the cloth masks could have effected the data.

    About 77% of the health care workers in the study reported washing their masks by hand. Meanwhile, researchers found that risk of infection nearly doubled when the masks were washed by hand rather than in the hospital laundry machines.

    "We found that if cloth masks were washed in the hospital laundry, they were as effective as a surgical mask," Professor Raina MacIntyre of the University of New South Wales at Sydney said in a statement.

    While the original study did not test for COVID-19, researchers who conducted the analysis agree that past findings can still be applied in today's situation.

    "Both cloth masks and surgical masks should be considered 'contaminated' after use," MacIntyre said. "Unlike surgical masks, which are disposed of after use, cloth masks are re-used. While it can be tempting to use the same mask for multiple days in a row or to give it a quick hand-wash or wipe-over, our research suggests that this increases the risk of contamination."

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