Masks are now a ‘normal’ part of life and you may see nearly everyone wearing a facemask outdoors. According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a facemask is obligatory to prevent catching or transmitting the virus. Surgical masks are the most commonly used facemasks but the environmental concerns with dumping a large number of masks may raise a new question; can you re-use a surgical mask or not?
Typically, surgical facemasks are disposable means they are designed for one-time use only. But as the Covid-19 cases continue to rise, a mask is more of an essential requirement than just a surgical accessory.
Even the cost of specialized masks with filters has become a problem because not everyone can afford them. In addition to that, the mask manufacturers and local vendors have increased prices, making these simple face masks an expensive accessory. It has led to the demand for reusable facemasks such as cloth masks rising because of their affordability and longer life.
Still, many people prefer using a disposable surgical mask because it is simply lighter and more comfortable for the face. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already confirmed that these surgical facemasks are only good for one-time use. dump the mask immediately after you use it.
During the first wave of coronavirus, facemask shortage was a real concern. In April, WHO presented a report on using some exceptional methods for disinfecting the facemasks for reusing them.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed using hydrogen peroxide vapors for disinfecting and decontaminating the normally worn N95 facemasks which are typically used by healthcare workers.
Alternatively, they can clean the disposable masks using a high temperature or using UV radiation. But the problem with these procedures is that they are extremely inconvenient to do at home. So only health facilities and research centers can use it.
Adios Corona is a special group of researchers who educate people about COVID-19. They recommend using a seven-day method for cleaning the facemasks. In this method, the facemask is inserted into a simple paper envelope and a mark of date. Then it is left for seven days for complete cleaning.
There is plenty of data that suggests that coronavirus can only live up to seven days on any surface. So the purpose of following this seven-day method is to ensure the face mask from viral particles. Does that mean you can re-use a surgical mask after cleaning it with the seven-day method?
A study that confirmed the efficiency of this method reported that only 0.1% of viral particles were debatable after seven days. This study was published in The Lancet journal.
While it may work for individuals, it is not recommended for healthcare workers and those who are highly exposed to the virus i.e. direct contact with patients.
Some experts also suggest placing these disposable masks in the oven at a temperature of 70 degrees to 75 degrees. This temperature should not be too high for the plastic to burn and not too low for the virus not to be killed. Some people are also washing their facemasks in a washing machine, however, this type of cleaning doesn’t kill the virus.
A virus cannot be killed with detergent and this type of washing will only remove the electrostatic charge of the facemask, making it completely useless.