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VERIFY: Yes, you should swap out your wet mask for a dry one

Do public health experts recommend that you change your mask if it gets wet? Yes, and here's why.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

Do public health experts recommend that you change your mask if it gets wet?

ANSWER:

Yes

SOURCES:

PROCESS:

In many parts of the country, we witnessed winter's first big snowfall.  That includes on the National Mall, where an epic snowball fight broke out.

With this wet weather upon us, our masks might start to feel like a wet rag. But besides being uncomfortable, does it do you any good when it’s wet? 

Let's Verify: Do public health experts recommend swapping out your mask if it gets wet?

Our Verify researchers turned to the CDC, the World Health Organization and pair of infectious disease experts, Dr. Linda Nabha and Dr. Al Dababneh from the Mayo Clinic Health System.

The CDC says if you're out and about, carry a spare.

"Change a mask when it becomes wet," the agency writes. "A wet mask is harder to breathe through, is less efficient at filtering, and vents more around the edges of the mask. It is especially important to have one or more replacement masks during cold weather. If your reusable mask becomes wet, put it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it.”

The World Health Organization offered similar advice via these graphics.

Credit: World Health Organization
This infographic published by the World Health Organization says that for medical masks, "do not use a ripped or damp mask."
Credit: World Health Organization
This infographic published by the World Health Organization says that for non-medical fabric masks, "do not wear a dirty or wet mask."

"Do not wear a dirty or wet mask," the organization says regarding non-medical fabric masks. For medical masks, they say, "do not use a ripped or damp mask."

"It can cause trouble breathing, you're gonna have trouble breathing through a wet mask," Nabha said.  "Number two, it can harbor bacteria and fungus, and number three, it may not work as well.”

Dr. Debabneh compared a wet mask to a wet bag.

"If you have a paper bag that you use for groceries, if you get that bag wet, it's not gonna hold as many groceries, it's going to rip, fall apart," Dababneh said. "And that's what we're trying to prevent. We want to make sure that the mask holds its integrity, and it works to the best it can.” 

So we can Verify, yes, public health experts recommend swapping a wet mask for a dry one.