Study Explains the Correct Way to Disinfect a Face Mask at Home

New research suggests that you can disinfect your disposable surgical masks at home multiple times without damaging them. All it takes is a simple plastic nose clip and nothing else. Considering the widespread of coronavirus cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised people to cover their face with a face mask whenever in public.

Many of them are using the homemade custom-made masks as there is a sky rise increase in the demand for medical-grade face masks. This shortage has led people to make their own masks at home. And the surgical masks are to be available for medical staff at hospitals.

There is one way to control this demand for surgical masks and make most of them available in hospitals. Usually, the medical-grade face masks are for one-time use and should be disposed of later. But considering the market shortage, it is now possible to clean and disinfect these masks and reuse them instead of throwing them.

A new study published in the Journal of the International Society for Respiratory Protection discusses how to clean and disinfect a facemask for re-using it.

Click here to read the complete study findings. 

This new study explains whether it is possible to clean the mask and disinfect them without damaging their quality or not. The research team also compared the working and efficacy of these masks with homemade masks.

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Before this study, the previous research emphasized disinfecting the disposable mask by subjecting it to heat for 30 minutes. The temperature set for this purpose was set at 158 degrees F (70 C) or more than this to kill all coronaviruses including SARS, MERS, Influenza, and the new SARS-CoV-2.

This new disinfecting process is so easy that anyone can do it at home. Although the researchers didn’t conduct any testing with all virus samples. But their focus was more on how the repeated disinfection by heat affects the quality and efficacy of masks.

To evaluate this, the researchers subjected the masks to mannequins supplemented with a vacuum pump to mimic “breathing”. Then these mannequins were exposed to black carbon by using a kerosene lamp. This lamp typically generates the same size particles as that of a new coronavirus.

They investigated the efficiency of filtration of all these surgical masks but instead of actual coronavirus, they used lack carbon levels. This procedure was repeated using disposable N95 respirator masks. Both surgical and N95 masks were checked repeatedly in many ways.

The purpose of conducting these tests was to check the maximum filtration possibility in case of commonly used masks during coronavirus pandemic. In addition to that, the research team also tested the homemade cloth masks for their efficiency and disinfection possibility. The homemade cloth masks were prepared as per CDC’s instructions published on their website. One of the masks was made from the cotton dress, another from a cotton sweater, and third from a polyester cloth.

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The filtration efficiency of all these masks was different and the cotton cloth mask showed 55%, polyester mask showed 40% efficiency. Contrary to the popular belief, this research shows that homemade cloth masks might also protect from getting coronavirus just the same way as disposable surgical and N95 masks do.

Like medical-grade face masks, homemade cotton face masks didn’t show any damage when they were heated and their filtration efficiency was retained.

CDC recommends all users to wash and dry their masks after using which might affect its filtration capability sometimes. However, disinfecting the masks with the heat at home is easier and safer than washing them.

The research team suggests disinfecting these face masks at home using an oven bag or pressure cooker to heat them. And do not put the masks directly inside the cooker or oven.

This study has its own limitations. All this testing is completed as per static conditions where airflow was the same as that of an adult person breathing when he is at rest. It didn’t evaluate the efficiency when a person is actively moving or talking.

It is only a helpful way to understand that face masks can be disinfected at home. So instead of buying the medical-grade face masks in bulk, try re-using the masks. Let the medical-grade face masks available for medical staff which is actually at high risk of coronavirus while treating the coronavirus positive patients.




Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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