How To Sanitize Your Mask Without Destroying It

How To Sanitize Your Mask Without Destroying It

With most of us donning masks for a majority of the day, we're all trying to answer the big question — how do I sanitize and clean my crusty-a** coffee-breathed mask?

For N95 Masks:

While the general public is asked not to purchase N95 respirators due to shortages in the frontline supply. If you have one, do not clean the mask at home. But, you can reuse it with proper care.

  • Remove the respirator and place in a breathable paper, not plastic, bag. Close the bag and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 7 days. Wash your hands after handling. The virus can live up to 7 days on N95 respirator masks. 
  • Respirators even 11 years past 'expiration date' were found to be as effective as new ones, according to the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology at University of North Carolina
  • The CDC also recently recommended ultraviolet irradiation as a potential method to disinfect masks - however research is still preliminary. 

What NOT to do:

  • Do not use cleaning products like Lysol, alcohol or bleach to sanitize N95 respirators as liquids can damage the electrically charged fibers that protect you from viruses. 

For Surgical Masks:

Ideally, single-use surgical masks should be discarded after a single exposure. Just like N95 respirators, surgical masks can degrade after contact with water. The best strategy is to reuse with proper care. 

  • Remove the mask and place in a breathable paper, not plastic, bag. Close the bag and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 7 days. Wash your hands after handling. The virus can live up to 7 days on N95 respirator masks. 
  • The CDC also recently recommended ultraviolet irradiation as a potential method to disinfect masks - however research is still preliminary. 

For Cotton Masks:

The CDC recommends a few options for cleansing cotton masks. 

Washing machine:

  • Toss in your mask with your regular laundry. 
  • Use the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth type. 

Hand wash:

  • Check the cloth label to see if it is bleach-safe. These are typically the icons you'll see on the tag:Portughes Laundry and Dry Cleaning | How to Decipher Clothing Care Symbols
  • If bleach safe: use bleach containing 5.25%-8.25% sodium hypochlorite. You must ensure that adequate ventilation is present and it is recommended to wear gloves.
  • Prepare bleach solution using:
    • 5 TBSP 5.25%-8.25% per gallon of room temperature water.
  • Soak the mask in bleach for 5 minutes.
  • Discard the bleach down the drain and rinse with room temperature water. 

CDC Bleach Safety Warning⚠️ 

  • Always read and follow the directions on the label to ensure safe and effective use.
  • Be aware that bleach can damage cloth fabric over time.
  • Wear skin protection and consider eye protection for potential splash hazards.
  • Use water at room temperature for dilution (unless stated otherwise on the label).
  • Store and use bleach out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Special considerations should be made for people with asthma and they should not be present when cleaning and disinfecting is happening as this can trigger asthma exacerbations. Learn more about reducing asthma triggers.
  • See EPA’s 6 steps for Safe and Effective Disinfectant.

Want a safer way to disinfect without bleach? Microbē's newest non-toxic disinfectant generator creates a safer, different form of bleach called hypochlorous acid, a compound which has been shown by university research to be 80-120x more effective than bleach. 

Learn More About Microbē


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