As a general rule you should:
- Store face masks in a clean dry place (<80% relative humidity) where they won't be crushed. Do not use if the packaging is damaged.
- Keep your face mask in the original packaging, as details such as the expiry date or date of manufacture are important to determine a use by date.
- Place your mask away from direct sunlight, excessive moisture, extreme temperatures, and hazardous chemicals (storage temperature should be between -20 C to +30 C).
- Ensure your face mask is readily accessible and convenient to you.
If you like to carry a mask with you while you are out and about, it is best to avoid storing your mask loose in your bag or pocket in between uses. Instead, store your mask in a paper bag, envelope or a packet that does not trap moisture. Sealable plastic bags are generally not recommended in between uses because they retain moisture, which can provide the perfect breeding ground for germs and bacteria.
How to store a used face mask
Disposable face masks, like surgical masks, medical masks and community face masks, are not intended for re-use. Single-use masks should be replaced with a clean one every 4 hours or when they become dirty, damaged, or damp. If you're not able to dispose of your used mask right away, you might have to keep the mask until you can find a bin. In this case, it can be a good idea to place your used mask into a resealable plastic bag to avoid potential contamination.
When it comes to removing a disposable mask, it's important to avoid touching the front of the face mask and your face. Remove the mask using the ear loops or headband. Fold the outside corners together and place your mask into a zip lock plastic bag. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or a hand sanitiser before and after handling your mask. You can dispose of your face mask by putting it in the general waste bin. Don't be tempted to put masks into the household recycling bin, face masks are not recyclable at general waste plants.
What happens if the mask was not stored correctly?
Following proper mask storage guidelines means that your masks are more likely to remain clean, effective, and safe to use. This is especially important for medical face masks, which are designed to protect both the wearer and others from the transmission of infectious agents.
Storing a face mask incorrectly can pose a number of risks, including:
- Contamination: New masks that have not been stored correctly are likely to have become contaminated with dust, dirt, or other unwanted particles. This can reduce their effectiveness and increase the risk of infection when worn.
- Reduced effectiveness: Exposure to moisture, sunlight, and extreme temperatures can degrade the materials in masks, reducing their filtration efficiency.
- Damage: Incorrect storage can lead to physical damage to the mask, such as bending or tearing, which can render the mask unusable.
- Health risks: If a mask is stored improperly and becomes contaminated or damaged, using it may not provide the intended protection against respiratory infections. This can put the wearer and others at risk.
- Waste: Storing masks incorrectly can lead to the premature deterioration of masks, resulting in the need for more frequent replacement. This can be a waste of valuable resources, especially during times of mask shortages.
Do not forget to follow proper mask hygiene and any specific storage instructions provided by the mask manufacturer. If you are not sure about the condition of a stored mask, it is usually best to bin it and use a new, properly stored mask to ensure your safety and protection.
Detmold Medical mask and respirator storage recommendations