If you are a business owner concerned about the COVID-19 health crisis have a lasting impact, there are good reasons to stockpile personal protective clothing items such as reusable masks.

Although researchers are scrambling to understand the virus and develop a vaccine, this strain of coronavirus could linger into the fall or become part of the contagious landscape for years to come. If COVID-19 or a mutated version returns year after year like the seasonal flu, reusable cloth masks will likely become part of any business’ permanent inventory.

If there’s any good news about the post-pandemic new normal, it’s that reusable cloth masks are a reliable business expense that can be rolled into operating costs. But it’s crucial that industry leaders provide only high-quality protective wear and follow the CDC guidelines and recommendations for cloth and reusable masks.

What Types of Protective Masks are Available?

During the early onset of the pandemic, health organizations were uncertain about how the virus spread. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) included surgical masks for health care professionals and more stringent N95 varieties for first responders and other frontline workers.

But after it was determined that the contagion could become airborne from coughing and sneezing, among other ways, organizations such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tasked everyday people with wearing protective cloth face coverings when in public. We’ve all seen the wide-reaching homemade and makeshift facemasks. These DIY attempts will not suffice in restaurants, office spaces, and other workplace environments going forward. Industry leaders will likely need to supply one of the following three options.

Surgical Masks

A surgical mask typically filters out large airborne particles. These loose-fitting products insulate the user’s nose and mouth against contact with droplets from coughing and sneezing. Surgical masks also mitigate infecting others because they harness potentially tainted outgoing moisture.

Although outfits such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have reportedly not fully endorsed surgical masks as a COVID-19 deterrent, health organizations such as the CDC recommend these and other protections whenever possible. In terms of business owners creating an inventory to reopen and stay open in accordance with CDC guidelines, disposable surgical prove more costly than effective reusable cloth masks.

N95 Masks

Commonly called “respirators,” the N95 ranks among the top-tier controls and protections. This class of PPE filters out a higher percentage of airborne particles. Many are said to deter upwards of 95 percent of even minute particles due to the fact they employ filters and can separate exhaled air. Although N95 masks rank among the best defenses against COVID-19, they tend to be cost-prohibitive for private-sector businesses and are often designed for single-use only.

Reusable Cloth Masks

Even as stockpiles of surgical and N95 masks are replenished, these disposable products are expected to remain in relatively short supply. High demand from the health care industry, law enforcement, and other first responders will likely elevate the cost of these products. Their one-time use also makes them impractical for many sectors that want to affordably enhance their determined health and safety measures.

Reusable cloth masks made from 100 percent cotton are considered a secure defense against spreading COVID-19. Because they can be placed in a sanitary container after employee usage and washed multiple times, these products appear to rank among the best options for businesses. Cotton reusable masks deliver CDC-approved protections necessary to maintain a safe environment for workers and customers alike.

How to Properly Use a Protective Cloth Mask According to CDC Guidelines

The CDC, as well as state and local mandates, urge everyday people to wear some level of face protection when in public. These mandates are intended to minimize the spread of the virus, and business owners are expected to have an adequate supply for employees. The Mayo Clinic and CDC recently published guidelines on how to safely and effectively utilize protective reusable cloth masks. These include the following.

  • Always wash hands before and after putting on a cloth mask per CDC guidelines.
  • Be sure the cloth mask covers both the nose and mouth.
  • Securely tie it in the back of your head or use ear loops.
  • Do not share masks unless they have been appropriately washed and dried.
  • Avoid hand and finger contact with the reusable mask while wearing it.
  • If you make contact with a protective cloth mask, sanitize hands immediately.
  • Do not touch the protective front panel when putting on or removing a mask.
  • Individuals who have difficulty breathing may not be candidates for workplaces requiring masks.
  • Masks are not a substitute for CDC guidelines on social distancing.
  • Reusable cloth face coverings must be washed daily or whenever soiled.
  • Reusable cloth masks can be cleansed in standard machines using hot water, mild detergent, followed by a hot dryer cycle
  • Clean masks must be stored in a clean laundry bag or container.

Responding to the increased and ongoing demand for reusable cloth mask protection, industry-leading companies such as International Enviroguard are quickly filling orders for businesses. International Enviroguard’s washable cloth facemask line meets CDC regulations for public use as well as the essential business standard. The PPE company’s 100-percent cotton product is reportedly 13.5 inches long, with a 5- by 7-inch front panel and is secured with ear loops. The washable cloth face mask can be reused upwards of 15 times due to its enhanced antimicrobial finish.

Get Answers About Reusable Cloth Facemasks

In an effort to minimize confusion and misinformation, the CDC launched a FAQ platform. These are answers to commonly asked questions about proactive use or protective cloth masks.

When Do You Need to Wear a Protective Cloth Mask?

According to the CDC, an effective cloth face covering should be worn when people are immersed in any community setting. Examples include supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants, workplaces, or any environment where people gather or interact.

Do You Need to Social Distance When Wearing a Reusable Cloth Mask?

The simple answer, according to the CDC, is yes. Social distancing should be practiced at all times, and the six-foot standard should be maintained whenever possible going forward.

Who Should Someone Not Use a Cloth Facemask?

Anyone whose health would be negatively impacted by wearing a protective mask should not wear one. Also, the CDC advises parents not to place cloth masks on children two years old or younger.

It has become abundantly clear that the impact of COVID-19 will affect businesses for an indefinite period. Safe workplaces will likely require protective reusable cloth masks that are cost-effective and meet CDC guidelines. Industry decision-makers would be wise to promptly order cloth masks as the supply chains have struggled to meet global demand.