How to Sanitize N95 Respirators
What is an N95 Respirator?
N95 respirators are a specific type of face covering that fits closely to the nose and mouth and has an efficient filtration system. N95s are typically used in healthcare settings. According to the FDA, N95s should not be reused or shared.
How Long Can N95 Respirators Be Worn?
Typically, you would not reuse your N95 respirators (all FDA-approved respirators are labeled as single-use), but the CDC has stated that due to increased demand and decreased supply, N95 masks can be worn past the shelf-life determined by the manufacturer. They also shared things to look for when determining if it's time to replace your mask:
- Inspect your mask to make sure that it doesn't have any holes, or wear and tear. Look specifically at the straps, nose bridge, and nose foam.
- Perform a user seal check, if your respirator doesn't pass, do not use it.
- Check your breathing while wearing your respirator, is breathing is hard, replace your respirator.
When replacing a ruined or used respirator, place it in a plastic bag before placing it in the trash, and don't forget to wash your hands!
Sanitizing an N95 Respirator
If you are wearing your respirator multiple times, you should be sanitizing it to ensure it is keeping germs out and not trapping them in. According to a study conducted by professors from Princeton, UCLA, University of Washington, and researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) tested four decontamination methods.
- UV Light
- 70% Ethanol
- 70 C Heat
- Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide
A great way to use this method is with PhoneSoap. In just 10 minutes or less, our PhoneSoap products can sanitize your masks and respirators. We cannot guarantee a 99.99% disinfection on porous surfaces (like cloth or synthetic plastic) but anything the UV light touches, it will sanitize.
This can be found in many cleaning agents. Ethanol is great because it has a quick drying time but should have at least 10 seconds of contact time. The study noted that continued decontamination using ethanol can lead to lost integrity of the N95 respirators.
70 C Heat
The study recommends dry heat. This form of disinfection is often done through conventional dry heat ovens or incubators for 30-60 minutes.
Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP)
This form of disinfection is typically conducted by machines only found in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
The researchers concluded that respirators disinfected using VHP and UV light retained filtration performance after multiple rounds and cited VHP as the best form. Since it is unusual for the public to have access to VHP systems, UV light is a great option for disinfecting your respirators.
As recommended, use cloth masks for protection and prevention and allow health care workers to have access to N95 masks but if you do have one, follow CDC guidelines when reusing and make sure you are disinfecting using one of the four methods mentioned above.