How Many Washes Is Your Reusable Mask Good For, And Is It Water-Repellent?

Not all masks are made equal — some won't last 10 washes, while others can be washed 100 times.

This story was updated on May 26, after the launch of new reusable masks distributed by the government. Info about the new masks is at the end of the story.

Now that wearing masks is going to be part of everyday life for the forseeable future, especially as kids go back to school next week when Circuit Breaker ends and Post-CB Phase 1 begins (all school-going children have to wear either a mask or a face shield), it’s a good time to take a closer look at your mask.  Unless you have a never-ending supply of surgical masks, it’s likely most of us have stocked up on a reusable mask or two, since the government was distributing them and also as a slew of homemade and professionally-made reusable masks flood the market.

While some reusable mask makers tell you how many washes they’re good for — such as these ones from Pomelo which are good for 10 washes — others don’t indicate on the packaging how many times they can be washed without losing their efficacy.

And then there’s this one from 1929Mask which says it’s good for up to 100 washes. The $25 mask is anti-microbial and water-repellent, and believes it’s the first reusable mask on the market with these properties. The mask is three-ply — the first layer is treated with water-repellent properties (“so that virus-laden droplets roll right off”, according to its website), the second layer with Benzalkonium Chloride, the chemical used in hand sanitisers to kill germs (don’t worry, it’s non-toxic), and the third layer, with cotton for comfort. Kids’ masks and mask extenders are also available and there are two colours, black and navy blue.

1929 mask image 2  data
Masks from 1929 are three-ply and are meant to repel water, kill germs and be comfortable. 

This super-mask of sorts is made by a family who has been in the fabric manufacturing business for four decades. 1929’s founder Keenon Lee tells 8days.sg, “We regularly treat fabrics with all sorts of chemicals for different purposes and send them to be tested. We make fabrics for a number of global retail brands and they require test reports to ensure we have produced the textile according to specifications.” He also mentioned in a video titled “Facing Covid-19: Family of Mask-keteers” on Our Grandfather Story’s YouTube channel that the masks are made in Malaysia, quality checked in Singapore and that “results show [that our masks’] bacterial filtration efficiency is very close to surgical mask grade”.

1929 mask image 1
1929 masks have been treated with water-repellent properties, so that, according to its website, "virus-laden droplets roll right off”. 

We ask Keenon how many washes regular cloth masks can take, especially those that don’t state how times they can be washed, and he tells us, “Many masks that are being sold for a few dollars aren’t treated with water-repellent agents and certainly not for anti-microbial properties. If they are, the industry average is 15 to 20 washes. 1929 masks are treated with water repellent agents and can be washed many times without losing their protective qualities. They continue to be effective for 100 washes, as tested by Bureau Veritas (BV), a renowned testing centre. If we want to know if our masks can still repel water beyond 100 washes, we can pay BV to carry out a further test.”

mask extender 1929 mask
The masks also come with mask extenders for those who wear headdresses like tudungs, or for those who need a bigger fit. Kids' sizes are available as well.

More advice about the number of washes a mask can take, according to Keenon, “As a general rule, you should stop using a reusable mask when it reaches the maximum number of washes or is damaged. Most masks in the market are not treated with water repellent properties. But if they are, we recommend replacing the mask after a month, assuming the average number of washes is 15.”
1929’s masks are available at https://1929mask.com.

Update: 
On May 26, the government started distributing a third round of masks to Singapore residents, after the first round of surgical masks and the second round of reusable masks. These new cloth masks are new and improved, and come with filtration capabilities of at least 95 per cent. It says on the package that it is reusable up to 30 times, which we assume means it's good for 30 washes, and also states that it is anti-bacterial, cool on skin, made with organic cotton, and is perfect-fitting and quick dry. 

goverment mask data
The new and improved cloth masks distributed by the goverment starting today (May 26). 

You can get them from Community Centres and Residents’ Committee centres, or from vending machines at CCs.

goverment mask vending machine data
What the mask vending machines at the CCs look like. Scan your identity cards to select your mask. To collect a kid's mask, you need to present an identification document for children 12 and below, such as a birth cert or a school pass. With adult ICs, you can only collect adult masks. 
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goverment mask vending machine1 data
The masks can be collected from today (May 26) till June 14 at all CCs, RC centres and vending machines located at all CCs. The black masks are for adults while the white ones are for kids. Bring along your NRICs, birth certs or any government-issued identification with a barcode.  

For more info, go to www.maskgowhere.gov.sg.

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