Do not reuse the regular N95 face mask filter mask. But since they are nearly impossible to find (or) during the pandemic of here are some acceptable methods to sanitize and reuse common N95 masks.
We took advice from three credible sources:
First, how not to clean your N95 mask
Never use these methods to maintain the effectiveness of the mask:
- Spray or moisten with aerosol or liquid alcohol.
- Wash in soapy water.
Dr. Tsai indicates that these methods can break down the inherent electrostatic charge that is critical to the way an N95 filters small particles. They can reduce the effectiveness of a mask by a third to half.
How to Clean Your N95 Mask
There are three cleaning methods that experts consider credible and that you can easily do at home
Method 1: Rotation
Dr. Tsai quotes a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that uses a round robin rotation of masks so that each mask has a minimum of 72 hours of rest before being worn again. Tsai himself has not experimentally verified this method, but relies on the generally accepted belief that the coronavirus should not survive for more than 72 hours on an inhospitable host, such as the surface of an N95 mask. The downside of this method is that you need four masks per wearer, assuming you only use one mask each day. But if you're just taking a one-way trip on any given day for essentials, the numbers work.
Method 2: Steaming or Cooking
Dr. Tsai says that immersing an N95 in 125C / 260F degrees of steam or boiling water for 3 minutes will disinfect the mask without significantly reducing filtration efficiency (FE). Do not over-stir the mask when you cook it, only use enough manipulation to keep it underwater. If your mask has outer and inner layers of paper, the steam or cooking methods are not recommended as they will disintegrate the paper layers holding the filter medium between them.
Method 3: Baking
I hesitate to include this method because, although it is simple, it is assumed that you have a second dedicated oven for this. If not, you risk contaminating your food preparation main oven. Michigan State University researchers have refined this method using a laboratory oven, and Dr. Tsai agrees that heating a mask at 70 ° C (160F) for 30 minutes is an effective decontamination method.
The Most Important Step
Don't ruin your freshly disinfected mask by handling it incorrectly. Do not let your hands form a bridge between the particle-catching front of the mask and its apparently clean back. Practice these CDC N95 steps to properly put on and take off your mask.
While the CDC officially says there is no way to determine the number of times that you can safely reuse a mask, these techniques from credible viral transmission experts create reasonable alternatives in this unprecedented time.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.