N95 Masks KN95 Masks are Reusable and How Should They be Stored?
Health experts are urging Americans to swap their cloth masks for either N95 masks or KN95 masks, while others explain how to reuse a single mask.
The Coronavirus variant Omicron is more transmissible than any other known Coronavirus variant, even through thick fabric face masks. According to Linsey Marr, a professor at Virginia Tech, “Cloth masks won’t cut it with Omicron,” as more people purchase surgical or N95 masks.
N95 and KN95 masks are designed for single-use, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that they can be reused multiple times.
Can you reuse your mask multiple times and how should they be stored and cleaned?
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Can you reuse N95 masks and KN95 masks?
CDC guidelines recommend wearing your N95 masks and KN95 masks no more than five times, however, some experts offered tips on how to prolong your mask use and keep them clean.
Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious diseases specialist with OhioHealth, told USA TODAY that people should purchase a pack of N95 masks and wear them alternately.
The masks can be used five to a little bit more if they are rotated, washed, and stored properly, Gastaldo said.
Keeping the mask dry and clean requires sanitizing your hands before touching it and storing it outside or in heat. Gastaldo’s recommendation was echoed by Boston Medical Center infectious disease physician Sabrina Assoumou.
Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center, told USA Today that for an N95 mask you should change it every day. But the mask can be rotated. You could number and switch the masks if you have three masks, for instance.
Assoumou noted that there are signs you can look out for when it’s time to dispose of your N95 or KN95 mask, such as “fraying, stretched out straps, or deterioration of the mask.”
Each time you put on and take off an N95 mask, the straps weaken, and eventually, they won’t be able to “create a tight seal with the face.”
How should you store your masks?
According to the CDC, heating an N95 mask for 60 minutes at 158 degrees Fahrenheit is one of the best cleaning strategies. Changing the mask in your oven should be done with a wooden or plastic clip.
If the plastic straps are not exposed, the N95 masks can also be steamed and boiled, but soap and water are not recommended for cleaning.
Some people store their masks in brown paper bags to protect them from dirt and germs on surfaces, while others store them outside in the heat to kill off any germs and keep them dry,” Gastaldo said. “These steps will ensure that you can continue to use your N95 and KN95 mask for years to come.”
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