IOWA (WHO) — While any mask is better than no mask when it comes to slowing the spread of airborne illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends N95 face masks for maximum protection. The masks may look like disposables, but can be safely reused again and again, if they have been properly “decontaminated.”
The masks prevent the passage of most airborne particles both into and out of the mask. However, those particles can remain on the surface of the mask.
Cloth masks can be tossed in with the laundry, but N95 masks require a simpler, yet lengthier cleaning process. All you need are some masks and paper lunch sacks.
The coronavirus can survive on a surface for up to 72 hours. To be safe, the CDC recommends you start with a series of five N95 masks. Each day when you’re done wearing your mask, place it in a paper bag and set it aside at home. The bag will protect the mask from further contamination in the air while allowing anything on the mask to safely “die off.”
The CDC warns that this approach doesn’t restore a mask to “as new” condition. Masks will continue to lose effectiveness over time as they are worn – with effectiveness decreasing with each “donning” and “doffing.” The CDC also cautions that only individual manufacturers of masks can guarantee the process to decontaminate each specific model.