Are KN95 Masks Reusable?
During the 2020 pandemic, there was a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves. Across the Internet, you could find these items, such as new masks being sold at outrageous costs.
Many websites had reserved the sale of PPE to first responders and hospitals. And one of the most hard-to-find masks was the KN95 respirator mask.
Can You Reuse a KN95 Mask?
Unlike cloth masks, the KN95 blocks more virus particles, offering the wearer better protection when worn properly.
Masks have become more available since then, but there could always be a situation where another mask shortage will arise, and you may need to start reusing your KN95 respirator.
The cost of procuring masks, especially the respirator masks, can accumulate over time. Those who aren't exposed to high-risk environments and individuals may consider reusing their respirators to save on costs. The question is—is it safe?
The good news is that you can reuse KN95 masks using a few best practices to ensure they remain safe and effective.
How to Reuse KN95 Masks
Recommended to never try to wash a KN95 face mask as you would with a regular cloth covering. While the mask is made using a cloth material, this material uses a web of synthetic polymer fibers specially designed to trap viral particles.
They also carry a special static charge that entraps viruses, another reason they should never be washed. Once wet, the mask can lose its charge, making the fibers less effective at trapping viral particles.
Instead of washing, it's best to rotate and safely reuse several KN95 respirators. One reason is that many virus particles, such as COVID-19, trapped inside the mask can take hours or days to die. If your mask is clean and dry to the touch, storing it in a breathable bag can preserve it better and ensure it's safe to reuse. You should never wear a KN95 mask more than once every 72 hours.
Health experts also advise people to store their used masks in brown paper bags instead of plastic bags when implementing a resting period. This is because moisture is more likely to build up in a plastic bag as opposed to a brown paper bag. A paper bag will allow just enough airflow to dry your mask while protecting it from accumulating dust and other particles and protecting its shape, allowing you to reuse it safely.
Here's an example of a rotation of 5 masks.
- Label each paper bag from 1 to 5. You can also label the strap of your KN95 with your name and its matching bag number.
- Rotate the face covers daily. For example, wear mask number 1 on Monday, number 2 on Tuesday, and so forth until you reuse number 1 on day 6.
- Keep the unused masks in their respective brown paper bags and store them in a safe place out of children's or pets' reach.
How Long Can You Wear a KN95 Mask?
Unlike cloth or traditional medical masks, a KN95 can be effective for several hours at a time. A KN95 respirator mask uses several polypropylene layers that block 95% of viral particles, both large and small.
Another reason they work so well is that they are designed to create a better seal around the nose and mouth than standard medical masks, which have several gaps between the person's skin and mask for contaminated air to get through.
According to one CDC study, the KN95 face masks are 48% more effective than cloth and surgical masks. This type of mask can also reduce the odds of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 by 83%, which is higher than wearing a surgical mask at 66% and a cloth mask at 56%.
As for the exact time a person may wear a mask, studies have shown that a person wearing a KN95 respirator mask can be protected for up to 25 hours without becoming exposed. Over time, moisture and heat can compromise and wet the mask, impacting its filtering effectiveness.
When to Discard Your KN95 Mask
When you reuse KN95 face masks, it's important to know when it's time to replace them with a new mask. Over time, the mask layers will become worn from frequent inhalation and warm, wet air exhalation. Also, putting the mask on and taking it off while fitting it to your face can alter the mask's shape, making the seal less secure.
One way to tell if a respirator needs to be replaced is to do a "fit check." Hospital workers who reuse masks will often use this test. Place the mask on your face, inhale deeply and exhale to conduct a fit check. Feel for any gaps along the edges of the mask where air could be coming through. If your covering doesn't pass this test, do not try to reuse it. Instead, use a new KN95.
Another factor to consider is the visible condition of the mask. You should discard your KN95 respirator if you see it's stained, dirty, or damaged. If the mask is contaminated by another person's bodily fluids such as saliva or blood, discard it immediately.
Where to Buy Authentic KN95 Face Masks?
The pandemic struck the world out of the blue to shape everyday life. Knowing how to make the most of limited resources is vital for our safety and health. Another unfortunate thing about the pandemic was all the counterfeit PPE sold by unscrupulous people trying to exploit the situation. WellBefore is a trusted and reliable source of affordable masks, PPEs, cleaning supplies, OTCs, other medical supplies, and more.