The Ingenious Mask Organizing Trick I Stole from Italian Grandmas

updated Feb 24, 2021
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By now, we’ve all accumulated quite the mask collection. We already know how to wear them (over the nose, folks!) and wash them, but what about those clean, ready-to-use face masks? What’s the best way to organize and store them in your home?

For mine, I’ve adopted an old nonna trick: Hiding things that aren’t cookies in old cookie tins. Sure, it was always disappointing to find stuff like sewing gear instead of Danish butter biscuits when you were a snooping, sugar-hungry kid, but Grandma’s go-to storage idea is actually ingenious when it comes to those reusable COVID masks. Personally, I house mine in a lidded, disinfected Krumiri Rossi container that lives on my entryway table with mini bottles of hand sanitizer — a pseudo sanitization station, if you will.

But is my storage hack a safe one? Yes, according to Dr. Beth Thielen, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the University of Minnesota Medical School and an infectious disease physician with M Health Fairview. “Make sure it’s a place where your personal supply is separate from other household members, so you’re not mixing and matching masks,” says the doc. “And make sure you’re keeping your clean masks in a separate place from your dirty ones.”

One of my biggest concerns was regarding airflow — if having a sealed container might encourage bacterial growth, say — but doctor Thielen said that’s more a worry for worn masks than your fresh-from-the-washer face coverings. “When you wear a mask, you have moisture that condenses on it and can make it damp, which can prompt the growth of bacteria and get kind of funky,” she says. “But by the time it’s been washed with soap and water — the hottest water you can manage — and dried, whether in your dryer or with some sunshine on a drying rack, the mask should be pretty free of pathogenic bacteria.”

No matter what type of container you decide to store your masks in, be sure that they’re regularly cleaned and thoroughly dried, Thielen says. But most important of all? “That people have masks ready at hand when they need them. A perfectly stored and perfectly washed mask is not going to do any good if you forget it when you need it!”