How to Safely Reuse a Mask
Is it possible to safely reuse a mask? Our customer care team often receives this question. The answer is, it depends. While in some situations—highly infectious environments such as hospitals, for example, or when taking care of someone who is ill—you will absolutely want to throw your masks away immediately, a mask can be safely reused with appropriate care and caution.
If you are a member of the general public using a mask to help keep yourself and others safe in everyday life, here are some simple instructions on how you can reuse masks while still being protected.
Use a Paper Bag
Once you are through with the mask for the day, store it in a paper bag for at least five days. Collect up all the masks from your family and mark the bag with the date on which they were stored. You can reuse them five days later as most viruses have a life expectancy of only three days when outside the human host.
You can start with seven paper bags and mark them for each day of the week, such as Sunday, Monday, and so forth. Put the masks in the bag on the day that they were used and use them again on the same day of the following week. Do not use a plastic bag with a seal to store the masks as the potential moisture buildup inside may compromise the filtration system.
Do NOT Disinfect
It may be tempting to disinfect your mask using soap and water, bleach, or sanitizer. However, exposing an N95, KN95, KF94, or other filtering mask to liquid will reduce the filtration efficacy of the mask.
These masks rely on filter media that is electrostatically charged, which can be easily damaged by moisture—even the moisture from your breath will slowly degrade the filtration. The more exposure for the mask, the faster it will degrade. This means that you will need to replace the masks over time. Instead of washing or disinfecting, keep them in the bag and just let the virus die off. That will preserve the filtration system for as long as possible.
When to Replace Your Mask
While it is possible to reuse a mask several times with the paper bag method, this will depend on several factors. Look for the following to determine if the mask is still safe:
- Visible Damage to the Mask
- The Elastic Bands Do Not Secure the Mask to Your Face
- Airflow into the Mask Has Become Restricted
You should throw the mask away if you have any of the issues listed above. Also, the mask needs to be tossed if you have been in direct contact with a person who has COVID or any other contagious illness for an extended time. The buildup of the virus during high exposure may compromise the effectiveness of the mask.
If you have a supply of N95, KN95, or KF94 masks, please store them in a cool, dry environment as this helps maintain their quality and extend their shelf life.