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Repeated wear of cloth masks can cause unpleasant odors, discoloration and deterioration of the fabric, explains Jeffrey Keane, CEO of Noble Biomaterials, a biotechnology company specializing in antimicrobials for soft surfaces, the cloth in face masks among them. Antimicrobial masks aim to solve that issue, in addition to self-sanitizing — basically, the face mask includes materials that help keep it clean as it helps keep you clean. These cloth masks are designed to be odor-resistant and to help prevent the growth of bacteria on the surface of the fabric, said Keane. His company created an EPA-registered antimicrobial found recently in some masks in the market, said Keane. “The virus and bacteria are a threat on soft surfaces like fabric masks, and antimicrobial masks help eliminate cross contamination,” Keane noted.

When you cough or sneeze into an antimicrobial mask, positively charged ions in the fabric will inhibit and eliminate bacteria on the surface of the mask, said Keane. Antimicrobial masks also help to eliminate odor from use, which Keane believes will increase the likelihood you — or your kids — will wear the mask.