Whether you’re a healthcare provider or just someone who needs to wear a medical face shield, knowing how to clean it properly will let you maximize your purchase while being as hygienic and safe as possible. As medical face shields are becoming mandatory worldwide, you must have an accurate and thorough guide on cleaning them.
Here’s how to make a medical face shield clear again:
In a medical setting:
- Wipe the inside of the face shield.
- Wipe the outside of the face shield.
- Dab the face shield with a clean towel.
- Let the face shield fully dry.
- Sterilize your hands.
- Mix a mild detergent with warm water.
- Submerge the face shield into warm water.
- Clean the face shield with a soft cloth or sponge.
- Rinse the face shield.
- Dry the face shield.
- Use a disinfectant spray or wipe (optional).
Read on to learn more about how to properly clean a medical face shield and make it clear again. I’ll provide two step-by-step guides — one geared toward healthcare providers and another geared toward the general public. I’ll also take you through additional cleaning and maintenance tips to optimize the performance and longevity of your medical face shield.
How To Clean a Face Shield in a Medical Setting
Most medical establishments require all employees who support patient care (directly or indirectly) to wear face shields. Specifically, all medical and administrative staff are contractually obligated to wear this type of face covering while at work — except in those instances where they’re in a private office or eating food and drinks.
Sometimes, even patients and visitors must wear medical face shields as long as they’re inside a place that requires that particular face covering.
I should note that while medical face shields should be replaced as frequently as possible, cleaning and disinfecting them is the next best thing — not to mention much more sustainable and budget-friendly. However, if you’re working in an environment with an exceptionally high risk of contamination (i.e., pretty much every medical establishment), it’s usually better to replace the equipment than clean it.
Also, please note that the following sections describe general cleaning guidelines you can follow if you can’t find any other sources of information on how to do so. A face shield manufacturer’s instructions always take precedence over most of the things you read online. Therefore, check for any specific instructions on your equipment’s packaging before you start cleaning.
Finally, the type and quality of your medical face shield also affects its performance and longevity. Our elastic strap visor is lightweight, durable, and comfortable, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality face shield. You don’t have to worry about your face shield’s support structure digging into the back of your ears or being horrified at the thought of it falling off during a medical emergency.
Without further ado, let’s continue with the steps on cleaning medical face shields within a medical setting.
1. Wipe the Inside of the Face Shield
Before touching your cleaning tools or the face shield itself, don your gloves according to the best sanitary practices. Then, take a clean cloth saturated with a natural cleaning solution and carefully wipe the inside of your face shield. Alternatively, you can use a disinfectant wipe, although this method may leave hard-to-clean streaks that would make the cleaning process harder than it should be.
2. Wipe the Outside of the Face Shield
Take another clean cloth soaked in a natural cleaning solution and wipe the outside of your face shield. Afterward, take a clean cloth or wipe and saturate it with an EPA-registered disinfectant solution. Using that cloth or wipe, wipe outside of the face shield again to ensure there aren’t any impurities or streaks left on its surface.
3. Dab the Face Shield With a Clean Towel
Even though detergents and disinfectants do a great job when cleaning a face shield’s surface, you should remove them entirely when you’re done. Otherwise, you’ll risk your skin coming into contact with them or inhaling their harmful fumes.
To remove the cleaning solution you applied to your face shield, take a clean microfiber towel and soak it in a mixture of water and alcohol. Then, wipe the face shield thoroughly until all the residue and streaks have been removed.
4. Let the Face Shield Fully Dry
At this point, your face shield might look crystal clear. Still, you’ll have to dry it out thoroughly before putting it on again. Otherwise, the remaining residue will leave streaks and unwanted marks on your face shield, and you have to start the cleaning process all over again.
If you have the time to clean multiple face shields simultaneously, I recommend leaving your equipment to air dry. Doing this ensures there won’t be any microfiber streaks or residue stuck to the surface. You can put the face shields that have been thoroughly cleaned on a flat, clean surface located in a well-ventilated area. You can also hang them up to dry on a clothesline via clips — however, note that this method may leave tiny marks on your face shield.
You can dry out the face shield in a pinch with a clean towel. Make sure the cloth you use is as clean and absorbent as possible to avoid leaving any residue and wasting all the work you’ve done so far. Make sure you wipe in a way that leaves as few marks as possible (i.e., wiping only in a single direction).
5. Sterilize Your Hands
After cleaning the face shield thoroughly, chances are some of the initial residue and impurities have transferred to your hands. While sterilizing your hands after a routine cleaning job might not be necessary for the average Joe (a simple hand wash will do), healthcare providers need to abide by a different set of rules, as they’re constantly exposed to potential contaminants.
If you’re unsure of the procedure you have to follow, I highly recommend reading through this article to learn everything you need to know about hand sterilizing as a healthcare professional. Depending on the type of soap you use, you might want to go over your cleaning job with a disinfectant solution.
How To Clean a Medical Face Shield at Home
Cleaning a medical face shield at home is slightly different from how you’d go about it in a medical setting. Washing a medical face shield at home doesn’t have to be nearly as thorough as in a hospital. However, you need to repeat the process much more frequently.
The reason is that it’s harder for the general public to access a steady supply of medical equipment. On the other hand, healthcare providers are given face shields at work and can easily replace them.
Also, since wearing a face shield isn’t likely a part of your day-to-day life as a non-medical professional, and you’re likely too busy to do a thorough cleaning of your face covering, the process should be as quick and efficient as possible.
Luckily, by following the approach below, you can clean several medical face shields in minutes. If you’re a medical professional in a pinch, you can also follow the steps below (though you’ll have to be slightly more mindful when disinfecting your equipment).
1. Mix a Mild Detergent With Warm Water
As a casual face shield wearer, you may have noticed that some of the residue and debris might have stiffened hours after wear. If you attempt to scrub the surface right away, you might create scratches that are harder to remove than the residue and debris.
Instead, combine warm water with a mild detergent in a container big enough to fit all the face shields you want to wash. The detergent doesn’t have to be fancy: A run-of-the-mill mild dish soap will do.
The water-detergent mixture should help dislodge any hardened matter within seconds. It’ll also reduce surface tension and make the overall cleaning procedure much more manageable. You’ll also be guaranteed that the mixture will get evenly distributed along the surface of the face shields to be cleaned.
2. Submerge the Face Shield Into Warm Water
Once you’re satisfied with the water-detergent mixture you’ve created, take your medical face shield and fully submerge it into the solution. Depending on how dirty your face shield is or how long you’ve gone since you last used it, you might want to soak it in the mixture for a few minutes until the water turns cooler.
Note that the ideal temperature for the mixture is when it is warm to the touch but not hot. Generally, you’ll want to aim for a temperature around 110 and 90°F (43.3 to 32.2°C). Anything colder won’t be as efficient in dislodging residue and debris, while excessively hot water might damage the face shield and its delicate parts.
If you’re washing several face shields at once, you don’t need to clean them one by one. Submerge them simultaneously to make the process quicker.
3. Clean the Face Shield With a Soft Cloth or Sponge
Now that you’ve soaked your medical face shield, it’s time to remove the gunk from it. Take the equipment out of the soapy water and wipe its surface with a clean, soft cloth or sponge. Go over both sides, as impurities tend to collect on a face shield’s surface.
Remember to be gentle regardless of the cleaning technique you use. You don’t want to permanently scratch the surface while trying to make it clear again.
4. Rinse the Face Shield
At this point, your face shield(s) should be clean and residue-free. However, there’ll probably be leftover detergent on its surface. That obstructs your view, but it can also be irritating when it comes in contact with your skin. Therefore, you’ll want to rinse your face shield until there’s no longer any detergent clinging to it.
Whether you’re working with a single piece of equipment or a small batch, run each face shield under clean running water until you achieve your desired result. Alternatively, if you’re rinsing multiple face shields, you can also submerge them in a large container of clean water until there’s no more detergent sticking to them.
5. Dry the Face Shield
Now that your face shield is effectively washed and rinsed, you must dry it out thoroughly before wearing it again. You can let it air dry to avoid leaving any residue or streaks by using a cloth or towel (which, if unclean, can contaminate the face shield again).
However, if you don’t have the time or are only working on a single piece of equipment, waiting a few hours to dry it might seem impractical. Instead, you can speed up the process by dabbing the surface with a clean hypoallergenic microfiber towel. Be gentle when dabbing the excess water, and beware of any fluff or residue that might stick to the transparent surface.
6. Use a Disinfectant Spray or Wipe (Optional)
If you’re especially worried about cross-contamination, use a disinfectant wipe or spray on the face shield’s surface. Although I said this step is optional, I highly recommend taking the time and effort to do it to make the cleaning process as efficient as possible.
If your equipment seems clear and residue-free, and you’re looking to disinfect it before wearing it again, you can skip the previous steps and only clean using a sterilizing spray or wipe.
But if you’re not in a pinch, I suggest going through the previous steps, even if the shield might seem clear. You never know what tiny impurities you might be overlooking.
When choosing a disinfectant spray or wipe, opt for a residue-free formula. Otherwise, you might end up with visible streaks that you’re trying to avoid in the first place.
Most importantly, follow the manufacturer-issued instructions when disinfecting your medical face shield. Let the disinfecting substances do their job and dry out before wearing the face shield again.
Additional Cleaning Tips for Medical Face Shields
Even though cleaning a medical face shield is relatively easy, there are still dos and don’ts you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure the best possible results. Here are additional cleaning tips you’ll want to remember when cleaning a medical face shield:
- Don’t use harsh household cleaners.
- Don’t use paper towels.
- Test any detergent for incompatibilities.
- Take proper safety measures.
- Research any face shield cleaning product before purchasing.
- Store clean face shields in a sterile ziplock bag.
In the following sections, I’ll take you through these tips and why they’re crucial when cleaning a medical face shield.
Don’t Use Harsh Household Cleaners
You’ve probably noticed that I recommended mild detergents several times throughout this article, and there’s a good reason for that. While household cleaners fit this bill (for example, the dish detergents I mentioned), most of the cleaning agents you use at home aren’t appropriate for face shields.
That’s because many of them contain ammonia and similar substances that can be dangerous when inhaled or in contact with your skin, mouth, nose, or eyes. Given that most household cleaners are designed to remove even the most stubborn stains and debris, they often contain grit that helps dislodge these particles.
The above-mentioned grit can damage the face shield’s surface, which might be too delicate to withstand the friction and cause scratches to appear. In short, you’ll be defeating the whole point of cleaning your face shield in the first place.
Don’t Use Paper Towels
You should avoid using paper towels when drying your face shield after a thorough rinse. Not only are they prone to sticking to any wet surface and leaving fluff behind, but they’re also much more abrasive than you think. (Think about that the next time you use these to wipe yourself after using the toilet.)
Rubbing a face shield with a paper towel can leave microscopic scratches that obstruct your vision over time. Instead, opt for a microfiber towel — or, at the very least, a softer hypoallergenic cloth.
Test Any Detergent for Incompatibilities
If you can’t buy a new bottle of detergent for your face shield cleaning needs, you can still find an appropriate replacement in the comfort of your home. As I mentioned, mild household cleaners can work instead of dedicated face shield cleaning agents.
That said, it’s essential to test any detergent you use to clean face shields. This means applying a small amount of the substance in an inconspicuous face shield area to check if any adverse reactions occur. You can also use a face shield that you’re about to throw away. You’ll avoid damaging anything within your direct line of sight and rendering the equipment unusable.
Take Proper Safety Measures
Wearing proper eye protection with your face shield is a must, especially if you’re used to wearing the same equipment several times or regularly work in an environment with a high risk of contamination. When cleaning a face shield, the detergent or disinfectant you use will always leave a bit of residue, regardless of how thoroughly you rinse it afterward.
Luckily, wearing protective eyewear will help protect your eyes from toxic fumes and impurities, allowing you to re-wear the same piece of equipment for much longer.
Research Any Face Shield Cleaning Product Before Purchasing
Most product labels are created to catch a customer’s attention, meaning they’re not always the most reliable source of information when choosing an option that’s gentle yet effective enough to clean your face shield. Therefore, before you buy any cleaning product, research it and its manufacturer along with any impartial reviews you can find regarding the item.
Doing so will help you better understand whether a particular cleaning solution is truly suitable when cleaning a medical face shield.
Store Clean Face Shields in a Sterile Ziplock Bag
Often, you want to clean your medical face shields preemptively to keep them ready to use at a later time. However, sterilizing the equipment only to store it in a dusty corner or cabinet afterward defeats the whole point of cleaning it in the first place.
Therefore, after letting your face shield dry, store it in a sterile, airtight ziplock bag to ensure no harmful microorganisms, dust, or other impurities stick to it.
How To Care for a Medical Face Shield
The old saying “Prevention is better than cure” rings true even when cleaning a medical face shield. If you take adequate care of your equipment, it’ll help make the cleaning process a breeze. Here’s what you need to know:
Prevent Medical Face Shields From Fogging
A fogged-up face shield will be exposed to many impurities and pathogens. Therefore, you’ll want to prevent that from happening in the first place. An excellent way to do so is to rub your mask with a bit of a mild detergent and wipe off the excess. The surface will become slippery, preventing fog from building up inside.
Store Your Medical Face Shield in a Dry Location
Excess moisture is the enemy of most household items, and face shields are no exception. High-humidity environments lead to excessive condensation, which fosters mold and rot. Therefore, whether you choose to keep your equipment in an airtight container or let it breathe, be sure to opt for a dry environment when it comes to storage.
Even though you’d want to replace your medical face shield after every use, knowing how to clean your medical face shield can be very helpful if you’re in a pinch.
And for all of your medical supply needs, be sure to check out our selection here at Allied USA. You’ll find it’s easier than ever to find everything you’re looking for in our vast selection of products. Give yourself the peace of mind you deserve by purchasing your medical supplies from a trusted company. Browse our selection today!
- Cleveland Clinic: How to Wear and Clean a Face Shield
- Australian Government Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Video – How to clean a face shield
- MNCDHH: Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Transparent Mask
- Very Well Health: Proper Hand Washing Technique in Healthcare
- New York State Department of Health: The Facts About Ammonia