Normally, KN95 and N95 masks are designed to be discarded after one use. However, due to the current pandemic, supplies have become low and attaining what would be considered a normal amount has become difficult. Because of this, both medical professionals and everyday people are being forced to reuse their masks. This has created a new issue. How do you disinfect a mask? Some people have tried washing their masks with soap and water in order to disinfect. Unfortunately, this only degrades the mask’s filters and makes them virtually useless.
How to Disinfect
Other than the CDC recommendations for extended use of masks, there isn’t a lot of information on the subject that is peer-reviewed. In order to disinfect, the method of sterilization must inactivate any viral load on the mask, cannot soil the mask, must keep the filtration capacity preserved as much as possible, and not compromise the fit of the mask. Researchers have recently looked into the issue and have discovered some useful means of disinfecting masks. Using vaporized hydrogen peroxide, UV light and heat are not CDC recommended, but researchers suggest these means are successful in disinfecting. However, most people don’t have access to UV lights and vaporized hydrogen peroxide. Therefore, the most realistic option for most people is heating their masks.
The University of Tennesse suggested that heating a mask to 70C for 20 minutes can decontaminate a mask while still preserving most of the integrity of the filters. N95 masks are made of a paper outer and inner layer, and should not be boiled, steamed or washed. This will disintegrate the filer medium material. However, Dr. Tsai of UT Knoxville says “submerging an N95 in 125C/260F degree steam or boiling water for 3 minutes will disinfect the mask without significantly reducing its filtration efficiency. Don’t excessively stir the mask if you boil it, use only enough manipulation to keep it submerged.”
Remember to proceed with caution. None of these methods are recommended by the CDC and have yet to be peer-reviewed.
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