Are you frequently using and going to shop for N95 masks and want to learn more about decontaminating them? We got you covered. In this article, we will discuss some of the proven ways that you can decontaminate N95 respirator masks. Without further ado, let’s start by first discussing the reliability of decontaminating N95 masks.
Is it possible to decontaminate N95 masks without risking the mask’s integrity?
N95 respirators are created as a single use mask, which means that they should be disposed after wearing them once. N95 respirators are used mainly by medical workers to lessen their contact with contagious agents in the air, which includes the virus which induces COVID-19. Having said that, there is a research that proves that N95 can be effectively reused.
According to researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), N95 respirators have the ability to be decontaminated appropriately while still keeping their reliability on protecting the wearer for up to 3 uses. The research was carried out in a controlled lab environment. Even though the results are yet to be peer reviewed, they are already being distributed to aid the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP)
Out of the 4 tested methods for decontaminating N95 masks, vaporized hydrogen peroxide is the most promising. It is the only method that was able to completely remove all traces of the virus in just 10 minutes of treatment. Additionally, N95 masks treated with vaporized hydrogen peroxide did not experience any kind of failure, even when repeatedly decontaminated (up to three times).
- Dry heating (70 degree Celsius)
N95 masks that was decontaminated three times using dry heating has exhibited deterioration in its integrity. As such, researchers has recommended that N95 masks that underwent decontamination using dry heating to be only used twice at most. Dry heating an N95 mask also takes longer compared to ethanol and vaporized hydrogen peroxide, taking more than an hour to fully eliminate viral particles in the samples.
- UV lights
Similar to dry heating, N95 masks treated using UV lights showed signed of failure to its fit and seal after 3 decontamination sessions. Decontamination using UV lights is only recommended for 2 sessions, and the mask should be discarded after that. Additionally, it also takes more than an hour to fully decontaminate a mask using UV lights, similar to the dry heating method.
- Ethanol spray (70% solution)
Ethanol comes second place to vaporized hydrogen peroxide in terms of effectivity on decontaminating live viral agents. However, it comes with a severe disadvantage to the other 3 methods. The researchers discovered that ethanol spray ruined the reliability of the fit and seal of N95 respirators after a couple of decontaminations. As such, ethanol is currently not recommended for decontaminating N95 masks, except if you only want to reuse a mask once.
VHP or vaporized hydrogen peroxide is the most effective and efficient method of decontaminating N95 masks. Researchers also suggests to check the fit and seal of the mask after every decontamination before wearing one.