Respiratory protective equipment and safety products, including many types of masks, are essential to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 infection. In fact, the outbreak of the pandemic has resulted in masks being in high demand by hospitals, for their health care workers, and by individuals. Not surprisingly, many institutions are facing critical shortfalls of appropriate protective masks and must scramble to find alternatives.
Although KN95 masks are designed to be disposable, many institutions around the world are already asking their staff to reuse their KN95 half masks. Reuse means that the masks can be removed and put back on several times. This decision is made as a last resort to deal with shortages.
KN95 masks, on the other hand, have shown high efficiency in filtering out dust particles, hazardous fumes, viruses, and bacteria, etc., and in preventing inhalation of pollens, airborne pollutants, etc., despite being reused multiple times over long periods.
How To Reuse The KN95 Face Mask?
To reduce the risk of contact transmission, it is recommended that a cleanable full-face shield be used over the KN95 respirator mask to reduce the risk of contamination when reusing it. It is also vital for the wearer to maintain hand hygiene by thoroughly washing their hands before and after touching the half-mask. When putting on the KN95 mask for the first time or when reusing it, it is important to hold it by the elastic ear loops and never touch the front of the mask.
This is where germs can be found and touching the front can contaminate the wearer’s hands. If the mask is used more than once, the nose clip will have already shaped the nose and the wearer may not need to adjust it to their nose. They can simply take the KN95 half-mask respirator and put it around one ear and then around the other.
Two Re-Use Methods:
In times of shortage, medical facilities, laboratories, hospitals, etc., resorted to many methods to decontaminate KN95 masks for reuse. However, many of these methods are not available to the average person because they require specific decontamination protocols and trained personnel. In the following, we will explain two of the best and easiest methods to decontaminate a KN95 mask at home, which guarantee the protection of the mask against wear and tear due to reuse.
- UV Radiation:
UV radiation is a form of radiation. It is measured on the electromagnetic spectrum. Solar emissions are the largest producer of UV radiation. In fact, the light output of the sun includes the heat of visible light and ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation is a powerful disinfectant against many viruses and bacteria. It is also one of the safest sanitation methods for removing covid 19. It does not require direct contact with the surface of the KN95 mask, all you need is a calibrated UV light source.
UV radiation is very effective at removing mold and spores without damaging the mask’s texture. It’s like leaving the mask in direct sunlight. During the decontamination process, the UV light range that covers wavelengths between 262 nanometers and 285 nanometers (262-285 nm) targets the DNA of the COVID 19 virus. As a result, the virus is severely damaged to the point of destroying its bulk structure and DNA replication is no longer possible, thus eliminating viral growth of the virus.
- Dry heat at 158° F:
Evidence-based practice has shown that using dry heat to decontaminate a KN95 mask does not tear the mask texture. Dry heat is one of the easiest methods to prepare the KN95 for a second use by decontaminating it without compromising its effectiveness and filtration capability. The rationale for this method is relatively simple. Several studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 can be degraded by dry heat.
Therefore, you can place the KN95 mask, for example, in a convection oven at 70° C 158° F to get rid of hazardous particulate. To ensure uniform heating and safety, you can use a steel box and place the half mask in it before putting it in the oven. After exposure to dry heat for more than 30 minutes, the corona virus on the surface of the mask will be inactivated and the spores removed while the mask will retain its functionality. It’s like putting the mask in a hot sauna to decontaminate it. Although this method is time consuming (30 minutes to an hour in one cycle), it is very easy and you can do it several times.
How Many Times Can You Use KN95 Mask?
- UV radiation is very effective in decontaminating KN95 masks for up to three cycles without affecting the integrity of the mask.
- The KN95 mask will retain its filtering ability and shape for up to two dry heat cycles before it begins to lose its effectiveness.
When The KN95 Half Face Mask Is No Longer Reusable?
There are a few indications that the KN95 mask has lost its integrity and can no longer be reused. Before going through them one by one, let’s discover the main tips for reusing a KN95 respirator.
TIPS FOR REUSING KN95 MASK
-After doffing your KN95 respirator, do not touch its outer surface because it is considered dirty and contaminated by default.
– After the first use, put the KN95 mask in a new paper bag or Ziploc bag.
-Do not put it in your purse or pocket.
– Make sure that the mask shape is not damaged when you put it in the bag.
-Label the outside of the bag with the wearer’s name. Masks should only be reused by the same wearer.
-Ensure hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing the KN95 half mask.
– When the respirator is ready for reuse, grasp it by the ear loops and wear it without touching the inside.
– do not hang your facepiece over your chin while wearing it. you do not know what is on the surface of your skin. Hanging the mask may increase the risk of transmitting unwanted particles to the inside of your mask and then to your nose.
-If you accidentally touch the inside of the mask, discard it immediately.
-Carefully inspect the mask after each decontamination before reusing it. If you notice a deterioration of your mask, loops coming off, surface burns, etc., even after a single cycle of decontaminations, discard it.
– KN95 masks should be disposed of in the yellow waste containers.
THROWN AWAY WHEN:
- Dirty: when the outer part of the mask is filled with splashes, dirt or blood, this is actually a sign of expiration. Also, if it is visibly wet, it means that it is no longer suitable for reuse. When KN95 masks are used in heavily polluted areas or contaminated places, reuse should be done with more caution and if the respirator is already damaged, it should be immediately discarded
- Incorrect decontamination method: Any attempt to clean and sterilize the KN95 face mask without considering the preservation of its filter material makes it unsafe for breathing. As a result, the breathing mask loses its effectiveness in filtering inhaled and exhaled air and must be discarded.
- Leakage: The KN95 and N95 masks have no flaws, according to health experts, when it comes to leakage. The leakage rate of an N95 respirator mask is 0% while that of the KN 95 is less than 8%. This does not mean that the KN95 mask will never leak. After several uses, it will start to leak. At that point, you have no choice but to discard the mask.
- Loose-fitting: The KN95 mask is equipped with two ear loops. The tighter the loops, the tighter the mask fit, and the tighter the fit, the less germs and dirt from the ambient air can come into contact with your nose. In short, the tight fit is an essential part of your KN95 mask. When the loops begin to lose elasticity and there is a slight gap between your facial skin and the mask, it’s time for a new KN95 mask.
Did you reuse your KN95 mask at home during the shortage periods? And what decontamination method did you opt for? You can share your experience below so that others can learn from you as well. And if you have questions about another way to ensure KN95 masks are reused, ask us and we’ll answer them in the comments section. Stay safe.