When it comes to disposable face masks, generally speaking they should only be used a single time before being disposed of. However, due to ongoing mask shortages along with the potential financial cost of purchasing new disposable face masks after each use, consumers are looking for alternative methods for extending the life of their disposable face masks.
The NIH and CDC have both released guidelines for professional decontaminating procedures, but those typically require large machines that are not available to most.
Here Are Some Simple Ways to Reuse Your Face Masks:
Let It Sit After Use
One of the easiest ways to decontaminate your disposable face masks is to let them sit for at least 72 hours between uses. Typically coronaviruses lose their viability after 72 hours making it less likely to lead to contamination after that time.
As best practice, you should place your used masks in a paper bag away from others and in a cool, dry environment to fully decontaminate.
While reusing your face mask after at least 72 hours between uses can be a safe practice, you should never wear your mask for more than 8 total hours and it should be disposed of after 5 uses.
You should never rewear a face mask that has been knowingly exposed to COVID-19. If you have or believe you have come into contact with a contaminated source, place your face mask in a sealed bag in the trash. Once you have removed your mask, wash your hands.
Invest In Multiple Masks
Waiting at least 72 hours between uses of your face mask may make it difficult to leave the house if you only have one face mask. Investing in a pack of multiple masks makes it easy to start a rotation of your masks, allowing you to always have a decontaminated mask on hand.
The CDC recommends reviewing the manufacturer’s suggestions for how and if you should reuse your face masks and investing in a minimum of 5 masks at a time.
How to Dispose of a Face Mask
Once you have used your face masks and are ready to dispose of them, simply place them in a trash can. Always wash your hands after handling a used face mask.
It is also recommended to cut the ear or head loops off of your mask so they do not pose potential harm to animals.
Can I Wash My KN95, 3 Ply, or N95 Face Mask?
No, washing your disposable face mask can hinder its effectiveness at filtering out viruses and/or particles. For this reason, it is not safe to wash or launder your disposable face masks.
Can I Spray My KN95, 3 Ply, or N95 Face Mask With a Disinfectant Spray?
Spraying your disposable face mask with a disinfectant can be both hazardous to your mask as well as your health. The NIH and CDC do not recommend disinfecting your face mask with alcohol, bleach, or sanitizing wipes.
Which Face Mask is Best For Me?
Deciding which face mask is best for you can be confusing. There are several factors that come into play when you are deciding on the best face mask for you.
One of the most important things to consider is when and where you will be wearing your mask. Understanding the environment you will be in will better help you choose the right mask. Those that might be in close contact with sick individuals, may want to opt for a higher level of protection such as an N95 or KN95 Face Mask. However, if you are just wearing your face mask to run errands or to social distanced events, a cloth or 3Ply face mask may be a good option for you.
Here is a simple breakdown of the protection each face mask offers:
3 Ply Face Masks
Great for running errands and everyday use, consumer 3 Ply face masks or constructed with 3 layers of protection and effectively filter our particles 3 microns or larger.
N95 Face Masks
N95 face masks offer the highest level of protection of any other mask. An N95 face mask is made of 4 or 5 layers and has a 95% or higher filtration rate for particles .3 microns or larger. N95 masks are approved and regulated by the FDA and NIOSH for medical use.
KN95 Face Masks
Similar to an N95 mask, KN95 face masks also offer a filtration rate of 95% for particles .3 microns or larger. The main difference between a KN95 and an N95 mask is how they are regulated. Whereas the N95 is made to meet American standards for safety, a KN95 mask is manufactured to meet European and Chinese standards for safety.
To learn more about the differences between KN95, 3Ply, N95, and Cloth face masks, click here.
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