Rules in the UK have been implemented to have compulsory face masks on public transport like planes, buses, tubes, ferries and trains.
People purchasing face masks are asking the question ‘can we reuse face masks?’. Well that all depends on which face masks you are using. Generally for face coverings, yes they can be used again, however with regards to FFP3 Face masks and KN95/N95, washing and reusing them is still debatable.
Most manufacturers, to be on the safe side, have stipulated respirators and surgical masks are to be used only as disposable face masks. You don’t necessarily need to purchase these disposable face masks as they tend to be sold as medical masks for health workers. If you aren’t able to purchase these disposable face masks that health workers are using, you can always buy face coverings.
How do I wash my Face covering?
The CDC guidelines recommend washing them either by hand or with a washing machine. Including your face masks in the regular laundry is fine with your standard detergent and at 60 degrees or over, the higher the temperature the higher the chance of killing any signs of coronavirus.
If hand washing your face covering try to use a bleach solution with warm water making sure the bleach is intended for disinfection.
When drying your face mask with a dryer make sure you use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until it is completely dry. Drying the mask after a hand wash requires you to leave it flat directly in sunlight if possible.
Why can’t I reuse FFP3/FFP2/N95 masks?
These respirators maintain a good measure of filtration of airborne contaminants unfortunately, if you reuse face masks they will not reproduce the right capacity of filtration.
Masks should not be touched or adjusted in any way
They should be disposed of if they get damaged, moist or soiled in any way or form. Duration of face masks depends on different variables such as humidity, heat, amount of perspiration and type of activity. Guidelines will vary to between 2 and 6 hours. If the masks are touched or adjusted in any way, hand hygiene must be performed with a good hand sanitiser.
Can I reuse Surgical masks?
If you are using the thin IIR surgical masks, then no. They are designed to be used as single use only.
Are face masks with filters safe to use?
Due to the disposable nature of face masks, costs and environmental damage become a huge factor. All of which is important but at the same time good filtration becomes an important aspect too when choosing the best face masks.
Consumers have options to buy face masks in nearly any style or material, including nylon, cotton and polyester. Many of these masks come with filters built in or coming separately as replaceable filters.
Face coverings will not protect you from coronavirus
The different types of filters available range from Hepa, carbon or high dense fabric. When it comes to safety and protecting yourself from coronavirus the CDC reports that they WON’T protect you from coronavirus. As for air purification and filtering out particulates, Hepa and carbon filters will be effective but we still have limited information on effectiveness.
How to take off your mask?
When wearing a mask, make sure it doesn’t become another contaminant. Always wash your hands before you take it off and after you take it off. The CDC illustrates how to do this well.
Because the mask at the front is contaminated, you need to make sure you grasp the mask from the ties or the elastics from bottom to top. Never touch the inside of the mask because you could self contaminate.
Don’t overuse your face mask.
The World Health Organisation advises that you should throw away your mask as soon it becomes damp into a closed bin. If masks are in short supply, reusing the face masks is not the only option. You can stop the spread of infection by staying at home, sanitising your hands and clean surfaces.
If you want to reuse face masks, extended use is much preferred over reusing and this is because less touching is involved and spreading due to contact.
One important point is if the fit is correct and the face masks function well, if not, there tends to be an increase of removal and therefore contamination. UK PPE suppliers are distributing masks to key health workers as fast as they can due to shortages, disposable face masks need to be prioritised to UK health workers rather than the general public, which is why the public are tending to opt for face masks that are reusable.
In circumstances where face masks are not available to healthcare professionals, they will have to resort to homemade masks, these masks are not considered PPE but will have to be used in combination with a face shield to be fully effective.