Throughout the pandemic, we heard a lot about different kinds of face masks, with some more recommended than others, such as N95 respirators and KN95 masks. N95 masks are ranked by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) under the CDC and are designed to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles, which is where the 95 numerical comes from in N95. The reality is that N95 masks do have a shelf life, and we'll include everything you need to know about when to replace your N95 masks below.
N95 masks are an excellent choice of face mask, keeping out both large droplets and smaller particles such as dust, fumes and smoke. They're trusted enough to be used in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and clinics, as well as in construction, painting, and other industries where workers may be exposed to dust and other particles.
N95 masks are more protective than cloth masks, since they are made of non-woven, melt-blown material, and have a secure fit to the face using a nose clip and straps, ensuring that particles do not enter through gaps on the sides of the mask. In contrast, cloth masks are made of various types of fabrics and can be significantly less effective than N95 respirators and/or KN95 masks. They also have more gaps around the edges and may not come close to the fit testing protocol that N95 masks go through.
It's no secret these days that N95 masks are superior, but do these face masks have an expiration date?
Do N95 Masks Expire?
Yes, N95 masks do have an expiration date, for many reasons. The materials and the elastic bands used in the mask can degrade over time, making the mask's ability to filter out particles decrease as it ages.
Expiration dates of N95 masks vary depending on the manufacturer and the specific model. NIOSH recommends that N95 respirators be discarded after they have reached their "use by" date highlighted on their packaging or in a small certificate present in their packaging, or when they are exposed to water or other liquids or are damaged in any way.
Many N95 masks have a shelf life of between 2-5 years, but you should check the expiration dates on them to be sure. Sometimes manufacturers print the expiration date on the mask itself or on its filter. If you are unable to find the expiry date and believe you have expired masks, contact the manufacturer for more information.
The truth is expired N95 masks may still provide some level of protection, but the mask's ability to protect is greatly reduced as the filter media becomes clogged with particulate, or, the mask's elastic bands may lose their elasticity, making it less secure on the face and less effective at preventing the inhalation of harmful particles. And so, it is highly recommended that you just discard them once they reach that date.
Can you Wash an N95 Mask?
No. N95 masks are designed to be disposable and washing them can degrade their effectiveness and would likely fail a fit test. If the mask is visibly dirty or contains moisture, it should be replaced. If the mask is not visibly dirty, it can be worn for up to three days before it needs to be replaced.
WellBefore and You
If you have been looking to replace your expired masks, look no further than WellBefore. We offer an excellent N95 NIOSH approved face masks designed with 4-layers of protection, and are available to answer any questions you may have.