There is great confusion among people that if they can wash and reuse their N95 face masks or not. NIOSH-approved N95 masks provide you with 95% filtration against airborne germs and diseases and thus have been extremely trusted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the high product demand led to its shortage in the market which resulted in some alternatives suggesting to wash and reuse the already present masks.
Well, a simple answer to this question is that Yes, N95 masks can be washed and reused but this washing is not something like with a traditional soap, detergent, or water. You cannot wash N95 masks like you wash your clothes. You cannot boil or steam them. In fact, you cannot even spray them with aerosol or liquid alcohol. If you do so, you’ll be damaging its protective layers and disintegrating its filter material. Many studies have been conducted to test the effect of traditional washing on the N95 masks and almost all of them reported a significant decrease in the filtration efficiency of the mask when washed with alcohol or soap.
If this is so, then how can you wash and reuse your NIOSH-approved N95 masks? We have the answer, keep reading!
Washing strategies for N95 masks
Washing an N95 mask has specialized ways that are tested and approved by CDC. Here we present some of them with considerable information for your better understanding. Note, all these techniques require expert care because you have to disinfect the mask without compromising its filtering capacity.
The techniques found effective for washing N95 masks include;
- Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide
- Dry heat
- Moist heat
- UV light
Researchers at Duke Health have investigated the use of vaporized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize N95 face masks. They successfully decontaminated N95 face masks using “specialist equipment” in their bio-containment laboratory. The vaporized hydrogen peroxide was able to penetrate the layers of the mask and destroy bacteria without causing the mask to deteriorate.
The University of Tennessee conducted a variety of studies utilizing dry heat and concluded that heating a mask at 70°C for 30 minutes can offer decontamination for N95 masks while maintaining filter integrity. SARS-CoV-2 tests at the National Institutes of Health showed that this approach can be utilized for two cycles to destroy the virus without compromising good fit.
UVGI (Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation) is another approach for killing Corona Viruses that is already being used by several institutions. N95Decon discovered intriguing results indicating that UV-C radiation can successfully render COVID-19 inactive in a recent non-peer-reviewed study. This was done with precise dosage measurements and sufficient light penetration onto the masks’ surface material, or FFR.
Although moist heat (60-70°C and 80-85 percent relative humidity) has been demonstrated to kill flu viruses, it is unlikely to be a viable choice for decontaminating and cleaning N95 masks because it can compromise the mask’s filtration performance. The CDC does not currently approve of this practice.
Methods not approved for washing N95 masks
The methods that don’t work for cleaning and washing N95 masks include;
- Spraying Alcohol
- Soapy Water
It is recommended not to try any of these on your masks because they will ruin its filter medium rendering the mask of no use.
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