How to Disinfect Your Mask: A Step-by-Step Guide
Cities are cautiously starting to reopen in the U.S. and around the world, but social distancing and mask-wearing are likely here to stay — at least until a COVID-19 vaccine can be developed and mass produced.
With protective gear still in high demand, buying disposable face masks can be difficult, expensive, and can exacerbate shortages for medical personnel. That’s why researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory investigated how to safely disinfect and reuse disposable face masks. Their research — published in April and detailed in this blog post — showed that disinfecting certain kinds of N95 respirators and surgical masks by baking them at 170 degrees F did not affect most masks’ ability to filter out virus-sized particles, even over 10 cycles of disinfection in the oven.
It’s important to follow a few key steps in order to disinfect your mask without damaging it and putting yourself at risk. We’ve laid out the steps below, with help from study coauthors Steven Chillrud and Beizhan Yan.
Illustrations by Sunghee Kim/Earth Institute