Do cloth masks work? Only if you machine wash them after use
Now open: Certificate Course in Management of Covid-19 by Govt. Of Gujarat and PlexusMDKnow more...Now open: Certificate Course in Management of Covid-19 by Govt. Of Gujarat and PlexusMDKnow more...
Get authentic, real-time news that helps you fight COVID-19 better.
Install PlexusMD App for doctors. It's free.
A new publication from researchers at UNSW Sydney advises daily washing of cloth masks to reduce the likelihood of contamination and transmission of viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

Cloth masks must be washed daily at high temperatures to be protective against infection, a new analysis published in BMJ Open suggests.

The researchers analyzed unpublished data from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) they published in 2015. This study is still the only RCT ever conducted on the efficacy of cloth masks in preventing viral infections.

"Given the potential implications for health workers or community members who are using cloth masks during the pandemic, researchers did a deep dive into the 2011 data on whether the health workers in our study washed their masks daily, and if so, how they washed their masks. We found that if cloth masks were washed in the hospital laundry, they were as effective as a surgical mask."

It is important to note that given the study was conducted over five years ago, the researchers did not test for SARS-CoV-2—instead, they included common respiratory pathogens such as influenza, rhinoviruses and seasonal coronaviruses in their analysis. It is based on self-reported washing data and was conducted by health workers in high risk wards in a healthcare setting.

"While someone from the general public wearing a cloth mask is unlikely to come into contact with the same amount of pathogens as healthcare worker in a high risk ward, we would still recommended daily washing of cloth masks in the community. COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus, and there is still a lot that we don't know about it, and so it's important that we take every precaution we can to protect against it and ensure masks are effective," says researchers.

According to the analysis, handwashing 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 majority of people in the RCT handwashed their masks, and this may be why the cloth masks performed poorly in the original trial.

"The WHO recommends machine washing masks with hot water at 60 degrees Celsius and laundry detergent, and the results of our analysis support this recommendation," says researchers. "Washing machines often have a default temperature of 40 degree or 60 degrees, so do check the setting. At these very hot temperatures, handwashing is not possible. The clear message from this research is that cloth masks do work—but once a cloth mask has been worn, it needs to be washed properly each time before being worn again, otherwise it stops being effective."

Source: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/9/e042045
S●●●●m T●●●●r and 9 others like this12 shares
Like
Comment
Share