How to Remove a Tick Safely and Effectively

IgorChus/iStock via Getty Images
IgorChus/iStock via Getty Images

Even after spraying yourself with bug repellent and bundling up in long sleeves in mid-July, you can still attract ticks. The best way to avoid tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and STARI is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. But if you do feel that telltale bump on your skin, don't panic—as long you remove the parasite quickly, you can drastically reduce your chances of contracting whatever pathogens it may be carrying.

There are several myths regarding the best way to remove a tick. You may have heard that you should hold a lighter up to it to force it to detach from your skin. Don't do this—not only is it dangerous (you'll probably end up burning more of yourself than the tick), it's also ineffective. The same goes for smothering a tick with soap, rubbing alcohol, or petroleum jelly. Research shows that if you want to lower your chances of catching a tick-borne disease, the best course of action is to remove it with tweezers.

As soon as you see or feel that you've been bitten by a tick, grab a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Gently grasp the tick's body between the tweezers, making sure to get the tips as close to your skin as possible, and extract the tick with a slow, even upward movement. The goal is to remove the tick in one piece. If the mouth parts stay embedded in your skin, try to pick them off with clean tweezers. If that isn't possible, leave the remnants to fall out on their own.

Once the tick is out, the next thing you need to do is dispose of it safely. Drowning it—either by submerging it in a container of alcohol or soapy water or flushing it down the toilet—is a foolproof option. If you need to toss it in the trash, wrap it up in tape beforehand so it can't crawl out and return for a second helping.

Not all ticks carry diseases, so being bitten by one may not warrant a trip to the doctor. Before seeking medical attention, gauge your symptoms in the weeks following the bite. Do you feel feverish? Has a rash developed around the bite site? If the answer is yes to either question, it's worth getting your bite checked out.

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It


When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

The Right Way to Clean Your Face Mask

Properly cleaning your face mask is important to keep it free of infectious material.
Properly cleaning your face mask is important to keep it free of infectious material.
mikography/iStock via Getty Images

In an effort to slow the transmission of coronavirus in public settings, health officials are advising that people unable to practice social distancing wear a cloth face mask. While not as effective at filtering respiratory droplets as medical-grade masks, cloth masks are still recommended as a practical preventative step.

Like all apparel, masks get dirty. They absorb sweat and germs, and they need to be cleaned. But how?

According to National Geographic, the best way to clean a cloth face mask is to take the same approach as the rest of your laundry—toss it in the washer. Laundry detergent is effective against coronavirus because the pathogen is encased in a layer of oily lipids and proteins. Detergents and hand soaps contain surfactants, which reduce the surface tension of the fatty layer. The surfactant molecule is attracted to oil and grease on one end and water on the other. The end that disrupts the oil bursts the coronavirus envelope apart. Tiny pods of surfactant called micelles trap and wash the remnants away. It’s this activity, not the water temperature, that kills the virus, though using a higher dryer temperature can destroy most microorganisms that might be lingering.

Bear in mind there’s a recommended way to take off your mask. Make sure your hands are clean, then pull it off using the straps behind your ears. This avoids contaminating the mask—and your face—with any pathogens that might be on your hands.

Medical-grade masks are trickier, as they’re intended to be used only once and can’t stand up to a wash cycle. If you have an N95 or paper mask, you can set it aside for several days, at which point the virus is likely to become inactive. But keep in mind that health officials still aren’t entirely sure how long coronavirus can persist on surfaces, and it’s possible for a mask to collect particles over time, increasing the viral load.

But what about the rest of your clothes? Experts say not to worry so much about disrobing the minute you get home. The coronavirus likes moisture and dries out quickly on fabrics. You need to be careful with the material covering your face, but the rest of your outfit can wait until your regularly scheduled laundry appointment.

[h/t National Geographic]