RICHMOND, Va. -- As more contagious COVID-19 variants spread across the country, health experts say mask wearing isn't going away any time soon, but could you be carrying the virus on the very things that's supposed to protect you from it?
The CDC recommends washing your mask after every use, but some people say they don't have the time for that. So, a VCU student developed a product that would make it a lot easier.
Like many of us, 24-year-old Tyler McAnney, from Richmond, staunchly follows the guidelines from the experts.
He wears his mask whenever social distancing isn't possible.
"I don't want to put myself at risk of contracting it or bringing anything back or around others that might be at risk," said McAnney.
But when it comes to cleaning those face coverings, he says a packed schedule doesn't always allow for it.
"I don't really wash the ones that I have. I have more than 10 at this point," McAnney explained. "If I had a mask that would clean itself, it would save me a lot of time and money."
Thankfully, VCU student McKenzie Piper has a solution for people like McAnney.
"To have a mask that cleans itself sort of adds that kind of peace of mind," said Piper.
The CEO of Tekstyle USA designed a self-cleaning face mask called Celsius.
"There's been a few studies that have showed us that heating coronavirus up to 80 degrees Celsius, almost with nearly 100% accuracy, will neutralize the virus," Piper said.
Using a portable charger, the masks heat up to at least 80 degrees Celsius, or 176 degrees Fahrenheit, for two minutes at a time to potentially kill COVID-19.
Piper said people can still wear the mask while it's cleaning and they won't feel a thing.
"One of the layers, the interior layers is active," said Piper. "We're calling it the active heating layer. And then behind it, is a thermal reflective material. So that's what keeps the heat off your face. That's how it's safe."
Piper said she didn't cut corners on comfort either. Celsius masks are made almost entirely of textile.
"From the outside, it pretty much looks just like any other cloth face mask," Piper explained.
Piper said the masks can last up to five years and could be good to use for future flu seasons even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
She credits her support system at VCU for helping her design and launch a product this early on in her engineering career.
"It's kind of crazy. It's sort of hard to believe when I think about it too hard," Piper said.
The 20-year-old hopes her success might even inspire other young people to take charge of their future now.
She even offered some advice: "Just really reach out and find those mentor figures. It is definitely what helped me."
A Kickstarter is set to launch next week, and then customers can start placing orders starting at $130. That cost covers the materials and production.
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