Face masks and other face coverings are now part of our lives, and our wardrobes. They need to be washed, just like anything else that we wear — and just like other things we wear regularly, your face mask is probably going to get stained at some point along the way.
While dark-colored disposable masks are available and are a good option for people who wear makeup, who use facial hair grooming products that leave an oily or waxy residue or who are especially spill-prone, if you wear reusable fabric face coverings, you’ll want to know these tips for removing common stains.
Masks and other cloth face coverings should be washed after every use — you can think of them as being like underwear. Because they’re small items, with straps and loops that can catch on other garments in the washing machine or dryer, it’s a good idea to use protective mesh washing bags.
Bagail Set of 5 Mesh Laundry Bags ($8.87; amazon.com)
It’s also good to get in the habit of checking masks for stains prior to washing so that you can apply a pretreatment product to them that will help to break down stains better than detergent alone. Stains fall into different categories, depending on what caused them, and are best treated with a product designed to break down that particular stain.
Felicia Linsky, an award-winning Hollywood makeup and spray tan artist, says her go-to stain remover for makeup is OxiClean’s gel stick; the same formula is available in a spray and a foam as well, both of which are effective at makeup stain removal. Rubbing alcohol, and products like hand sanitizer that contain a high concentration of alcohol, are also effective at removing stains from lipstick and other types of makeup from fabric.
OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover Spray ($7.96, originally $10.99; amazon.com)
OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover Foam ($7.11, originally $8.17; amazon.com)
Equate 70% Isopropyl Alcohol ($7.87; amazon.com)
Grooming products for facial hair like beard oil or mustache wax can leave greasy residue on the inside of fabric masks. Those stains fall into the oil and grease category and are best treated by dabbing a small amount of Pine-Sol or Lestoil onto the stain just prior to laundering.
Lestoil Heavy-Duty Multipurpose Cleanser ($13.95; amazon.com)
Sweat, blood and other secretions like saliva and sebum, the oil that the skin naturally produces, are protein stains. Protein stains should be treated with an enzymatic stain remover prior to washing.
Zout Laundry Stain Remover Spray, Triple Enzyme Formula ($7; amazon.com)
Food stains come in such a wide variety that it’s impossible to find one perfect stain treatment for them all, but Shout spray is the most effective product you’ll find for most food stains. If red wine or fruits like cranberries, pomegranates or blueberries are frequent stain offenders, a specialty product called Wine Away is a smart buy — it works well on those very stubborn stains.
Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover ($13.99; amazon.com)
Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover ($9.23, originally $9.95; amazon.com)
Alison Freer, author of “The Accessory Handbook: A Costume Designer’s Secrets for Buying, Wearing, and Caring for Accessories,” has a brilliant solution to the problem of lipstick staining the inside of her face covering. “Here’s how you wear red lipstick in a pandemic: Get yourself a mask bracket,” she says. “It makes a little cage around your face, doesn’t mess up your makeup — and it also makes it easier to breathe.”
Anesidora Face Mask Inner Support Frames ($15.98 for a 3-pack; amazon.com)
Makeup setting products can also help to keep your makeup in its place on your face rather than on your mask. Linsky recommends setting sprays and powders that act as a barrier between makeup and mask.
Dermablend Compact Setting Powder ($29; amazon.com)
Anastasia Beverly Hills Loose Setting Powder ($38; sephora.com)
While many people are forgoing lipstick altogether, plenty of others aren’t willing to give it up. To those people, Linsky recommends switching to no-smudge formulas, like the ones that Stila, Maybelline and Smashbox offer, that reduce the problem of lipstick rubbing off onto fabric masks.
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($22; nordstrom.com)
Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick ($7.98; amazon.com)
Smashbox Always On Longwear Matte Liquid Lipstick ($24; sephora.com)