Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the need for personal protective equipment, particularly N95 masks, has drastically increased. Unfortunately, the supply of these masks has remained limited, leading to concerns about proper cleaning and reuse to ensure maximum protection for healthcare workers, essential employees, and the general public.
If you own an N95 mask, it is essential to understand how to clean and reuse it safely. This blog post will provide you with guidelines on how to do just that.
1. Understanding the Importance of Proper Cleaning
Before diving into the cleaning process, it is essential to understand the significance of proper cleaning. When masks are not cleaned and reused properly, they can cause skin irritation and infection. Furthermore, if improperly cleaned, the respirator’s efficacy can be compromised, rendering it useless. Therefore, it is essential to understand that cleaning and disinfecting correctly will ensure the maximum efficacy of your mask.
2. Cleaning the N95 Mask
The CDC recommends two methods for cleaning an N95 mask: dry heat and UV light. You can use a clean oven, dryer, or tea kettle to sterilize your mask using dry heat. Ensure that the temperature remains between 70 and 100 degrees Celsius, and keep the mask in the heat source for at least 30 minutes. On the other hand, UV light can be used to deactivate the virus by breaking down the outer coating of corona. Use a UV-C disinfection box or 60-watt light bulb to sterilize your mask properly.
3. Storage: Safe Handling After Cleaning
After sterilizing your mask, you mustn’t touch the inner or outer layer as it can lead to cross-contamination. Use gloves or hold the mask from the ear chains because the masks are likely to be contaminated. Store the masks in paper bags, which can allow air circulation, and avoid deep-freezing the masks. One thing to ensure is regularly sanitizing the storage area for masks. CDC recommends storing the masks in a better-ventilated area.
4. The Maximum Number of Reuse’s
Manufacturers recommend not using N95 masks for extended periods. Depending on their quality, N95 masks can be worn between three to five times or up to eight hours when used daily. Still, it is always helpful to replace the mask after suspected exposure to the virus.
5. Regular Inspection and Maintenance
After reusing the N95 mask, make sure you inspect the fit. N95 Masks must fit snugly around your nose and mouth to ensure maximum protection. Any damage to the mask, including dents or cracks, can cause air leaks, compromising the mask’s efficacy. Therefore, it is essential to inspect the masks to identify any damage before and after use.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put all of us on high alert. With the reported cases surging each day, it’s become essential to take precautions and protect ourselves and our families from the virus. One crucial precaution is to wear a face mask that can prevent the spread of the virus. N95 masks have been in high demand because of their effectiveness in filtering airborne particles. However, many people face the challenge of how to reuse and clean N95 masks for maximum protection. In this article, we will discuss how to clean and reuse N95 masks while also ensuring maximum protection against COVID-19.
Before we discuss the cleaning procedure, it’s important to understand the limit of N95 masks’ reuse. The CDC recommends to reuse these masks a maximum of five times, long-term exposure to contaminated particles will reduce its filtration efficiency. Also, disposal can be the best option if the mask is visibly soiled or damaged.
The first step in reusing an N95 mask is to keep the mask in a safe place after use. You can use a paper bag or a breathable container, so the mask doesn’t get contaminated. Always mark on the bag or box the time and the name of the wearer.
To clean the mask, moist heat is necessary to denature the virus protein. Hence steaming, boiling, or baking can be the options. Softly fold the mask and put it in an aluminum foil cup and put this cup in a pot of soapy water or distilled water. Boil the water for 15-20 minutes, and you’ll have a sterilized mask after that. You can also use your home oven to sterilize your mask. Preheat the oven to 158°F- 176°F, and once it heats up, put the foil cup in that for thirty minutes indicating the time. Evenly spread out the masks in one layer, so they don’t crumple or get creases, making them less effective in lockdown pollutants.
Another technique used to sanitize an N95 mask is UV-C irradiation, irradiation helps with the cleaning of the mask. However, this method is not widely used since this requires proper equipment to achieve efficient cleaning. The UV-C light damages the viruses’ RNA, preventing them from replicating. This technique is best left to experts to avoid damage or overexposure to the harmful UV-C light that can cause skin burns or eye irritation.
Experts also recommend using a mask rotation system, where you own at least four masks used alternatively. This method is useful since the masks have enough time to decontaminate on their own, reducing the risk of virus retention.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to confirm that your N95 mask has sealed appropriately after cleaning it. While putting it on, make sure you cover both the mouth and nose, fasten the ear loops properly, and they fit snugly. A poorly sealed mask divides the filtration efficiency by half, leading to failure in protecting against the virus’s inhalation.
In conclusion, N95 masks are essential for protection against the coronavirus. Proper cleaning and reuse guidelines will help to mitigate the shortage of these critical protective tools. Ensure that you dry sterilize your mask with heat or UV light, store it correctly, inspect for damages, and appropriately dispose of it when it reaches the end of its lifespan.
Cleaning and reusing N95 mask do comes with a set of guidelines and sets of risks, but it is an excellent way to ensure that limited resources are put to maximum use. It is essential to remember that while the reuse of masks is an adequate solution, it should come second to using a new one each day to provide maximum protection to oneself and the people around.
Wearing an N95 mask has become essential in protecting oneself and others from COVID-19. However, with an increase in demand, this particular mask has become scarce, leading to reusing the mask for effectiveness in areas where the mask has not been damaged or contaminated. Majorly, moist heat is necessary to remove harmful contaminants that will lessen the effectiveness of the N95 mask. However, it is essential to limit the reuse of the mask to a maximum of 5 times. Precautions have been provided to ensure safe handling and sterilizing of the N95 mask, so the user does not expose themselves to harm. Cleaning and reusing an N95 mask must be done correctly for its maximum protective effectiveness.