If it feels like only a year ago that there was a shortage of face masks, that’s because there was. Now, masking with cloth face masks or disposable face masks — or even double masking with both in some situations, per the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines — is part of everyday, public life for many people. And while the CDC recently relaxed mask guidelines given the uptick in vaccinations against the coronavirus, it’s likely you still have a few face masks at hand for indoor use and higher-risk situations.
But what do you do with the disposable surgical masks once they’re no longer sanitary or safe to use? Reddit has a few solutions.
Turn the wire into twist-ties.
In the r/Frugal subreddit, Redditor u/AMELTEA showed off how they reuse the adjustable metal wire meant to give you a snug fit while the mask is on your face. “They are stronger and longer than the average twisted ties,” they noted, showcasing the wires’ utility on plant stakes, to close chip bags, and to keep longer cables organized. “You can cut them in half for cable management and they will work like a charm,” they said in a follow-up comment. “Twisted ties for the garden are more expensive than the others, those will do the work perfectly.”
They also called the wire extraction process “as simple as the picture shows”: simply cut the top of the mask, and fish the wire out. “Disposable masks are not the best, of course, but on some occasions I have to use specifically those so I figured I’ll use them as much as I could,” they added.
Save the wires for your own homemade masks.
If you have mask-making on your to-do list still, or have a pack of homemade or other fabric masks with easy-to-tailor edges, why not extend the wire’s nose-hugging shelf life? Several Redditors noted that they use the wires from disposable masks as material in their DIY face masks — but it’s a good idea to sanitize the wire before inserting it into its new cloth home. “We use disposables on occasion, and I can’t stand to waste a good nose wire,” u/Figgypie said.
“My clever sister used the bendy part of used medical masks in the masks she sewed for all the family,” u/BerrysNadine agreed. “Her homemade masks fit really snugly over the nose. Best mask I’ve had!”
Turn the ear loops into hair ties.
You might not be able to salvage the part of the disposable mask that goes over your nose and mouth — those can get kind of gross after a while — but you can repurpose the elastic ear loops. “The ear bands make great hair ties too!” u/crazycralola noted. Another user suggested saving three pieces and braiding them together for a stronger hair tie should you need it.
This hack is especially useful if you’re the kind of person who loses hair ties all the time — and there are ways to dress up even the most unassuming bits of elastic. (Hey, it happens!) “My daughter is only three so I constantly have to get more hair ties because she takes them out of her hair, leaves them on the sidewalk/sandbox/dog/car/couch/shopping cart (and those are just the ones I’ve found)…” u/Klutzy-Horse said. “Cutting the ear bands off, tying them in a circle, and if you wanna get extra fancy, crochet a bit around it with yarn ends… bam, adorable, unique, no-cost hair ties (that will still get lost because three.)”