If your masks are beginning to feel as old as this pandemic, it’s probably time to get yourself some new ones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises using masks that have at least two layers of tightly woven, washable, breathable fabric, such as cotton. When you wash your masks regularly, which you’re supposed to do, the fabric, as well as the fit, can begin to deteriorate. As this happens, your masks become less effective.
“A newer, fresher mask is likely to have tighter fibers, and so it’s likely better at keeping out other particles and keeping your particles in,” says Krys Johnson, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Temple University.
Here’s how else to know if you should replace a mask.
A snug fit is key. If the elastic of your ear loops starts to loosen, it’s time to reach for something tighter.
A mask needs to cover your nose and mouth in order to work. If one of the straps falls off and you have to keep touching your mask to keep it in place, this defeats its purpose.
This is perhaps the most obvious sign of all. If your mask is ripped, it needs to go. It doesn’t matter how small or large the hole is.
Experts strongly recommend owning more than one mask. And in the winter, you’ll want to carry a backup.
When in doubt, replace it, says Johnson.