What to do if you are about to run out of N95 masks?

The use of N95 respirators has become crucial for everyone during COVID-19; this is because the N95 respirators are the best Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for combating COVID-19. The N95 respirators do not let harmful airborne particles like bacteria, dust, infectious agents, and dirt enter into a person's body. 

The N95 respirators keep an individual safe from dangerous diseases like the influenza virus, COVID-19, and the swine flu, etc. The N95 respirators cover the mouth, nose, and other facial parts of an individual, and it acts as a barrier for filtering out airborne particles that could be detrimental to a person's health. 

Since the N95 respirator covers the nose and mouth of the wearer, it does not let airborne particles be inhaled by the wearer. In contrast to other masks or respirators, the N95 respirators are better than them; this is because the N95 respirators keep the wearer protected from inhaling dust, infectious agents, pollutants, contaminants, and dirt, etc.

There are several things an individual can do if they are about to run out of N95 respirators. If they have any N95 respirators left, they can utilize them by decontaminating it. There are several ways to decontaminate an N95 respirator. Decontaminating an N95 respirator means cleaning the N95 respirator to kill the bacteria that is on it. 

Some of the ways to decontaminate an N95 respirator are ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, steam treatment, dry heat treatment, and time decontamination, etc. Healthcare workers can use steam treatment as they would need to decontaminate an N95 respirator in a short time. Time decontamination is the best decontamination method for cleaning an N95 respirator for the public.

This is because the public does not have heavy equipment to use treatments like ultraviolet germicidal irradiation. Therefore, time decontamination is the best method to clean N95 respirators for the public. The decontamination of N95 respirators has been crucial during the shortage of N95 respirators; this is because some people purchased the N95 respirators when the pandemic began in large numbers. 

Since the United States did not take the severity of the virus seriously, they would not order the manufacturers of N95 respirators to produce the N95 respirators in large amounts; this is because the Trump administration thought that the severity of this virus would be equivalent to that of normal flu. That is why they did not take the virus seriously.

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation

In 2018, some researchers conducted a study. This study was conducted to determine how to decontaminate the N95 respirator. The researchers contaminated numerous N95 mask models with the H1N1 influenza virus. The viability of the virus was reduced after processing the N95 respirator models through ultraviolet light.

In 2009, similar studies were conducted to determine ways to decontaminate an N95 respirator. The researchers learned that exposing an N95 respirator to ultraviolet light for 30 minutes did decontaminate the N95 respirator. Exposing N95 respirators to ultraviolet light was found effective for decontaminating the N95 respirator.  

Another research was conducted during the pandemic in April to determine the effectiveness of this method for the decontamination of N95 respirators. The research cleared all the confusion, and it made it clear that the use of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation was an effective decontamination method. However, the drawback of using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation is that it takes a large amount of time to decontaminate an N95 respirator by using this method.

Time decontamination

There are numerous small healthcare facilities like small nursing homes and physician offices that do not have the resources for using different decontamination methods like ultraviolet germicidal irradiation and steam treatment. To remove the bacteria from the N95 respirator, time decontamination seems like a decent option.

This is a decent alternative for the public since they do not own complex technology to decontaminate an N95 respirator through ultraviolet germicidal irradiation. Therefore, using time decontamination is a wise solution so that the N95 respirator does not go to waste because wasting N95 respirators would lead to an acute shortage of it.

Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide

Researchers conducted a study in 2009 where they exposed a contaminated N95 respirator to vaporized hydrogen peroxide, and it had been exposed for 55 minutes. After conducting the study, the vaporized hydrogen peroxide method was also helpful for decontaminating the N95 respirator. 

Steam treatment

In 2012, a study was conducted by researchers where they contaminated an N95 respirator by putting the H5N1 influenza virus over it. After contaminating the N95 respirator, the microwave’s steam was effective at decontaminating the N95 respirator from the virus, which proves its effectiveness. 

Stanford researchers conducted a study where they exposed a contaminated N95 respirator with Escherichia coli, which is a bacterium, to boiling water’s steam; This had been proved to be an effective decontamination method as well.

Dry Heat Treatment

Stanford Medicine researchers came to know that the use of dry heat for decontaminating an N95 respirator contaminated with Escherichia coli is effective. The N95 respirators had been exposed to dry oven heating at the temperature of 70°C, and the N95 respirator was exposed to it for 30 minutes.


Hence, if an individual is about to run out of N95 respirators, they must decontaminate the ones they have got; this is because it is hard for an individual to buy N95 respirators because of the national shortage, and the only way to keep a person safe is by decontaminating the N95 respirator by the aforementioned methods.

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