How to Clean Your Face Mask Without Compromising Its Efficiency

The ongoing health emergency requires every one of us to practice precaution to play our role in halting the spread of the COVID-19. The deadly virus has affected over 930,000 people across the globe resulting in more than 47,000 deaths.

In addition to washing your hands at regular intervals, disinfecting your home and practicing social distancing, and wearing a face mask when going out is extremely important. You can make both face mask and disinfectant spray at home with readily available supplies.


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You might be wondering how many times a mask can be used or whether a mask can be disinfected for reuse or not.

As per a study ‘Addressing COVID19 Face Mask Shortages’ published by the Stanford Medicine Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab, here are the questions and answers that you need to read in this regard:

Question: Can N95 masks be reused multiple times and remain effective barrier protection for SARSCoV2?

Answer: Although this process is used according to CDC when there are PPE shortages. It is not safe and there is no highlevel evidence to indicate this is safe. We could find no reassuring statistics released by the CDC or others during other pandemics to show this practice is safe and the barrier protection is shown to deteriorate with use and time.

The second question:

Question: Can N95 masks be autoclaved or sterilized by other means for safe reuse?

Answer: To be useful, a decontamination method must eliminate the viral threat, be harmless to end-users, and retain respirator integrity.

To clean your masks, you can use a number of decontamination methods such as 70 degrees Celsius hot air in an oven, hot water vapors, ultraviolet light, 75% alcohol, and chlorine-based disinfection among others.

Let’s have a look at how effective these methods are as per the experiments performed by the 4C Air.

Samples Meltblown Fiber Filtration  Staticcharged Cotton E. Coli. Disinfection Efficiency
Filtration Efficiency (%) Pressure Drop (Pa) Filtration Efficiency (%) Pressure Drop (Pa)
70°C hot air in oven, 30 min 96.60 8.00 70.16 4.67 >99%
UV light, 30 min 95.50 7.00 77.72 6.00 >99%
75% alcohol, soaking, and drying 56.33 7.67 29.24 5.33 >99%
Chlorine-based disinfection, 5 min 73.11 9.00 57.33 7.00 >99%
Hot water vapor from boiling water, 10min 94.74 8.00 77.65 7.00 >99%
Initial samples before treatment 96.76 8.33 78.01 5.33

Note: The experiments are known to kill all coronaviruses, however, the tests were performed on E. Coli as an accepted protocol.

The above table shows that while the other methods are useful, alcohol and chlorine cannot be used for cleaning masks. These will remove the static charge in the microfibers in N95 facial masks, reducing filtration efficiency. In addition, chlorine also retains gas after de-contamination and these fumes may be harmful to users.


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Other Methods

In another study, 5 methods were used such as:

  • bleach,
  • ethylene oxide (EtO),
  • microwave oven irradiation,
  • ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI),
  • hydrogen peroxide (vaporized and liquid forms)

Bleach and microwave didn’t work because the bleach gases cause irritation whereas microwave heating melts the mask.

Here’s the conclusion of this study:

EtO, UVGI, and hydrogen peroxide decontamination were safe and effective in the models tested but it is not known if they would retain filtrationmaterial strength,and airflow integrity with repeated use. EtO, UVGI, and hydrogen peroxide limitations include time from decontamination to reuse and available space and materials to decontaminate in an OR setting. 70C /158F heating in aoven (not your home oven) for 30 minutes, or hot water vapor from boiling water for 10 minutes,are additional effective decontamination methods.

What are your thoughts on the story? Let us know in the comments.

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