The answer is yes.
“It’s definitely recommended to wash that mask every day,” said Dr. Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. Kullar points out that the purpose of the mask is to prevent the virus from spreading, so if there are virus particles on yours, wearing an unwashed mask is counterproductive.
“IT’S DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED TO WASH THAT MASK EVERY DAY”
Still, despite this advice, surface transmission is not thought to be a major vector of coronavirus spread. The primary transmission mode is person-to-person contact. The recommendation to wash your mask comes out of an abundance of caution, as well as the object’s close proximity to respiratory output.
The CDC also recommends washing masks: “Masks should be washed after each use. It is important to always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask,” the website says. According to the CDC, taking off your mask correctly means handling it only by the ear loops or ties, folding it to be placed in the washing machine, and washing your hands immediately after.
Cloth masks can be washed by hand or in a washing machine. Surgical masks, another popular option, cannot be washed and should be discarded after one use. There is very little “peer-reviewed” information about how to wash an N95 mask. Some potential options include vaporized hydrogen peroxide, using dry heat, or UV light — methods that aren’t really suitable for experimentation at home.
For cloth masks, if you’re using a washing machine, the CDC recommends regular detergent and “the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask.” If you’re washing your mask by hand, you should prepare a bleach solution and soak your mask in it for five minutes, then rinse in cool or room-temperature water. Mask filters should be washed by hand.
Eventually, an overwashed mask could become more porous and lose its usefulness. When that happens, it’s time to get some new masks, either by buying them or making your own. Whichever you choose, just be sure you clean them after each use.