How to Clean & Disinfect N95, KN95 and cloth Face Masks

Face Mask effectiveness

2020 will be a memorable year for us and future generations. This year has introduced an unprecedented number of changes in what we called normal life. In trying to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to make major shifts in how we relate to each other as we carry out our daily activities. Authorities have also been forced to implement social distancing measures that have caused significant disruptions in businesses and affected supply chains in significant ways all across the world. One of the supply chain setups that has been affected is the medical equipment supply. Due to this disruption, there has been a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at a time when they are needed most. Consequently, medics have had to devise n95 mask re-use strategies and kn95 mask re-use strategies to ensure the available supply is able to serve the high demand.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidelines aimed at mitigating the shortage. One way has been by allowing the use of alternative protection for the general population. Use of the highly effective KN95 and N95 masks has been reserved for persons who are at high risk of exposure and infected individuals. Cleaning respirator mask for multiple uses is also a good strategy. To make the limited supply last longer, guidelines over extended use and re-use of respirators have been issued by CDC.

[See: Face Masks to prevent coronavirus]

Extended use of N95 masks

Experiences from other industries that utilize N95 masks in operations are important. They show that the masks can be continuously worn for 8 hours. The CDC has performed test with selected healthcare workers. From the experiment, the use of the N95 masks in the less dusty healthcare environment is possible over several hours and only limited by hygienic conditions.

Extended use should be accompanied by reminders to healthcare workers about avoiding unnecessary contact with the surface of the mask. Additionally, there should be strict adherence to administrative and engineering controls that limit the possible contamination of the respirator’s surface.

Moreover, workers should observe proper hygiene with their hands when putting on the masks. Washing hands with soap and water before and after touching the masks goes a long way. Alternatively, sanitize hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer.

Extended use should not affect the structure of the respirator mask. Neither does it affect the functionality. Healthcare workers and medics should inspect their masks keenly before using them. Any visible damage to the mask’s surface renders it unfit for use. Moreover, consider discarding any mask that proves difficult to breathe through or one that does not sit on your face effectively.


Different manufacturers of N95 and KN95 masks give guidelines about the number of times a mask can be re-used. However, during these tough times, the CDC allows workers to make judgment calls where the manufacturer’s guidelines are not available. It is advisable, however, to limit the re-use of one respirator mask to a maximum of five cycles. Moreover, ensure you use proper methods when cleaning respirator mask and cleaning mask for reuse.

Masks that should be discarded

Any masks that have been used in procedures that generate aerosols are not suitable for re-use. Ensure that any masks that have deposits of obvious contaminants such as blood and nasal fluids are not used again. Lastly, discard any KN95 or N95 masks that have been used around a confirmed patient with the corona virus.

Moreover, check the general structure of the mask for damage and discard any masks that has obvious damage or that proves difficult to breathe through.

Masks that can be re-used

Strategies that one can adopt to minimize the possibility of contamination on the surface of the mask have been listed by the CDC.

First and foremost, consider wearing a face shield over the mask to decrease surface contamination. Secondly, KN95 mask re-use strategies dictate that masks should be stored in a well-aerated area.

Observe enough space separation between adjacent masks to eradicate cross-contamination. Finally, devise a way to track the user of each mask. Where possible, put in place measures that ensure the same mask goes back to the same user.

The storage containers should be regularly cleaned and when time comes for disposing of, ensure proper disposal methods are observed.

Handling masks requires observation of proper hygiene. Wash hands with soap and water before and after touching the mask. An alcohol-based sanitizer also works well to disinfect the hands when you need to touch the mask. Additionally, avoid unnecessary touching of the inside part of the respirator.

Wearing the mask should be done while wearing disposable surgical gloves. Be sure to discard the gloves after the mask is comfortably placed on the face.

How to clean n95 mask

To enable the re-use of the N95 and kn95 masks, cleaning mask measures have been put in place. There is a general checklist that makes a mask viable for use more than once. Firstly, it must allow incapacitating of the viral load on the surface of the mask. Secondly, the masks cannot be soiled by bodily fluids. Thirdly, the filtration ability and electrostatic charge should be preserved as much as possible. Finally, how the mask fits cannot be compromised. Below are some of the approved methods for cleaning mask.

Hydrogen peroxide vaporization (HPV)

This method has proved effective in disinfecting KN95 and N95 masks without damaging their structure or functionality. The method, however, can only disinfect masks that have no cellulose. Industries and hospitals that frequently use n95 masks have adopted this method. Moreover, they recommend it to anyone wondering how to clean n95 mask.

UV treatment

Exposing the masks to UV light to eliminate the viral load requires a standardized amount of UV light exposure. Due to the specific requirements, the UV treatment method for sanitizing masks at home is not feasible. This method can only be implemented in selected hospitals that have the required capacity and equipment.

Dry Heat

A more straightforward method to eradicate the virus on N95 and KN95 masks is through dry heating masks for 30 minutes at 70o. This method is limited to about twice without affecting the structure and functionality of the respirators. Research is still on going to ascertain the optimum period and temperature levels that achieve the best results.

The CDC is yet to approve this method of sanitizing masks in the medical field.

Cleaning mask methods that you should avoid

The delicate nature of the K95 and N95 masks makes damaging the inner layer easy. Water and alcohol should not be sprayed on the masks since the liquids will seep through the outer paper layer and reach the filter material in the middle. This causes disintegration of the filter material affecting the masks ability to filter out microorganisms.

Cloth and surgical masks as alternatives to KN95 and N95 masks

Majority of the population has resorted to using the more abundant and affordable cloth masks to protect themselves against Covid-19 pandemic. With the demand for KN95 and N95 masks exceeding its supply, the authorities and CDC have restricted their use to high-risk persons and the infected people. This is because the masks have higher filtering capability

The general population has the alternative of using surgical and cloth masks that are readily available and cheap. Sanitizing masks made of cloth material is also easier. It can be done at home where the products for sanitizing masks are used every day.

Surgical masks are meant for single use. However, with the observation of proper care such as disinfecting hands with sanitizer before and after handling, you can use the surgical masks a few times before you have to dispose of it. Note that surgical masks are not viable for cleaning using any method. Any water or cleaning alcohol that comes into contact with the surface of the surgical mask destroys the structure and reduces the mask’s ability to protect you.

Cloth masks, on the other hand, offer less filtration of bacteria and microbes. The cloth face masks also do not offer any protection from the coronavirus. They only serve to trap the droplets from the mouth and nasal fluids when a person speaks or coughs.

The advantage that comes with the use of cloth masks is their multiple useability. With multiple use, however, you need to know how to clean cloth face mask after every use.

Below are some of the cloth face mask re-use strategies that you could implement:

Cloth face mask re-use strategies

  • Cloth face mask disinfecting requires washing in warm water with a detergent
  • To stay safe all the time, cleaning mask daily after use is paramount
  • After the cloth face mask disinfecting, be sure to dry it by exposing it to heat. The sun works well, but you could also use the drier’s hot cycle. Avoid drying in the microwave because this may cause cross-contamination with food that is frequently warmed in the microwave.
  • You may opt for soap instead of a detergent when sanitizing masks. A soap will also breakdown the protein coat on the virus. How to clean cloth face mask with soap involves handwashing with warm water.
  • Wash your hands after wearing the mask and avoid touching it again until you have to remove it.

Cloth face masks to avoid

  • Avoid torn cloth masks that expose your nose or mouth
  • Do not use cloth masks that do not cover the mouth and nose
  • Do not use cloth masks that cannot remain in place on the face by themselves

Where to buy kn95 face masks

The fight against corona virus requires the efforts of everyone. Following and supporting government directives is the only way we are going to get through this difficult period.

The most important directives that have been implemented in almost every country in the world are observation of social distancing and wearing face masks in public places.

Wearing facemasks plays a big role when it comes to flattening the curve. All types of masks discussed in this article are available for sale both at local and online stores. However, with authorities limiting the supply of the highly effective K95 and N95 masks to medical staff and healthcare workers who are at higher risk of contracting the virus, the local stores may face serious supply shortages. If you are wondering where to buy kn95 face masks, therefore, you need to note that your local store might only be able to supply you with cloth and surgical facemasks. While not as effective as the N95 or KN95, these types are also ideal. With them, the process of sanitizing masks is also easier.

The most effective masks are N95 and KN95 masks. Online stores are your best bet if you wish to buy kn95 facemasks. Check out Health Supply World for high-quality KN95 masks.

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