Keep masks on the kitchen counter next to your phone so you remember to grab one when you leave the house. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Keep masks on the kitchen counter next to your phone so you remember to grab one when you leave the house. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Household strategies to manage summer’s hottest new accessory

This mom lays out her plan to keep clean masks available to all four family members at all times.

Now that there is a statewide requirement to wear masks while in public spaces, masks are everywhere — in our car, tucked into coat pockets and littered on the floor where kids left them after biking to the donut shop.

We need strategies for cleaning and organizing masks so they are ready when we are.

The first step is to make sure you own enough masks so that you don’t have to wash them every day. Right now it’s possible to buy inexpensive masks for adults and kids online at places like Old Navy, where I recently ordered 10 for $25. However, I prefer the more expensive masks I purchased from Athleta that were five for $30 because they feel easier to breathe in, have adjustable ear straps and a nose bridge. Homemade masks are another option, and we have several that my mother-in-law sewed for us.

Another reason to stock up on masks is so that you can bring more than one mask with you when you leave home. Masks get wet the longer you breathe on them, which makes them less effective. When September comes and my kids (hopefully) return to school, I’ll send them with at least a couple of masks per day so they can replace them as needed. That means I need six masks per family member, so that I don’t have to wash masks every day.

The CDC gives two options for laundering masks: washing them by hand with a mild bleach solution, or tossing them into the washing machine at the hottest temperature setting the fabric can handle. With those guidelines in mind, I’ve devised a strategy for managing our household’s mask supply.

Storage: I made room on the kitchen counter for a basket to hold all of our clean masks. It’s conveniently located by the cellphone charging station, so that anyone who leaves the house can pick up a couple of masks on their way out the door. The rule is, only clean masks go in the basket. This is important to emphasize because it’s tempting to put on a mask while greeting someone at the front door, and then toss it back in the basket because “you only wore it a few minutes.” Nope! That’s a no-no.

Washing: I keep a lingerie bag (a mesh bag for washing delicates) next to the basket. Used masks go into the bag. When it’s semi-full, I wash the bag in our machine on warm, by itself. I use a fragrance-free detergent because I don’t want my family to breathe in perfumes.

Drying: The CDC recommends drying masks in the dryer at the hottest setting, or laying them flat to dry in the sunshine. At first, I was worried that my dryer would destroy the masks, but I was wrong. They came out fine.

Wearing masks isn’t fun, but I want to do my part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. Plus, I’ll do whatever it takes to reduce the chance that we’ll have to return to distance learning this fall.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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