How to sanitize your mask (N95) and re-use it properly

June 8, 2020

How to sanitize your mask (N95) and re-use it properly
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How to sanitize your mask (N95) and re-use it properly

With the fear of COVID-19 infection rising, masks  have become extremely important. Cloth masks, surgical masks and N95 masks are used for various purposes. Washable cloth masks are used by general public every time they step out of their homes. These can be washed and line dried for re-use any number of times. Surgical masks are used by COVID-19 patients, suspected positive persons and home caregivers to prevent spread of infection. N95 masks are used by medical professionals who are in constant contact with COVID-19 patients.

N95 masks- usage, sanitizing and reuse
N95 masks achieve a very close facial fit and are extremely efficient in filtering airborne particles. The masks are designed for single use but in the current situation when we are facing a severe shortage of resources and medical supplies, N95 masks can be sanitized and reused.

Studies have been carried out to test the best method of sanitizing the N95 masks. The findings show that it is safe to reuse masks for up to 3 times after effectively sanitizing them.

Methods of sanitization
Three methods of sanitization have been found effective. Sanitization by exposure to Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP) is the quickest and most effective method for eliminating SARS CoV-2. UV light and dry heat (70o C) are also effective.

Masks decontaminated with UV and VHP can be reused up to three times, while masks decontaminated with dry heat can be reused up to 2 times if integrity of fit is maintained after each decontamination process.

Storage and disposal of N95 masks
When not in use, the mask should be stored in a clean breathable container. The container should be cleaned and sanitized after each use.

While discarding a used mask, wash your hands with soap and water and remove the mask gently by its straps. Place it in a plastic bag or Ziplock bag and secure it tightly. Dispose of it in a closed bin. Wash your hands immediately afterwards with soap and water.

Points to remember
Discard N95 masks after an aerosol generating procedure
Discard N95 masks it they are physically contaminated by body fluids
Discard N95 after close contact with patients co-infected with infectious disease
Clean hands with soap and water before and after touching or adjusting the mask
Avoid touching the inside of the mask. If you touch it accidentally, then discard the mask and wash hands with soap and water.
Use a clean pair of gloves while donning the used mask and performing seal check. Discard the gloves properly.

With proper safety measures and checks, we can extend the use of N95 masks safely, but a careful test of its integrity has to be conducted before each reuse to ensure maximum safety.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



Dr. S. Subha

Dr. S. Subha


Consultant, Microbiology

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