Can cloth masks prevent COVID-19? Only if you machine wash them after use, study shows

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In a new study, researchers found that daily washing of cloth masks may reduce the likelihood of contamination and transmission of viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

They found cloth masks must be washed daily at high temperatures to be protective against infection.

The research was conducted by a team at UNSW Sydney.

In the study, the researchers analyzed data from a previous study about the efficacy of cloth masks in preventing viral infections.

The data included common respiratory pathogens such as influenza, rhinoviruses, and seasonal coronaviruses.

The team examined whether the health workers in the study washed their masks daily, and if so, how they washed their masks.

The data were based on self-reported washing data and was conducted by health workers in high-risk wards in a healthcare setting.

The researchers found that if cloth masks were washed in the hospital laundry, they were as effective as a surgical mask.

But hand-washing the masks did not provide adequate protection. Healthcare workers who self-washed their masks by hand had double the risk of infection compared to those who used the hospital laundry.

The team says that both cloth masks and surgical masks should be considered ‘contaminated’ after use.

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, the finding suggests that this increases the risk of contamination.

The team recommends daily washing of cloth masks in the community.

It’s important that people take every precaution we can to protect against it and ensure masks are effective.

One author of the study is Professor Raina MacIntyre.

The study is published in the BMJ Open.

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