Research: Microwave Sterilize N95 Masks – WebMD

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Jul 9, 2020 – As one of the best lines of defense against coronavirus, N95 masks are vital for health care workers treating infected patients.

Although the masks are intended to be used once, the increasing demand and continuing shortage have prompted hospitals to try mask sterilization techniques such as hydrogen peroxide vaporization, UV light, and heat incubation. A recent study by the American Society for Microbiology offers a new decontamination tool that is much more accessible and affordable: a microwave.

Researcher James E. Kirby of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard says the study’s results are critical to the many health centers that lack the high-capacity sterilization systems of large hospitals.

“We knew there was a critical shortage of personal protective equipment and N95 masks, and we knew a solution was needed,” he says.

The eight-person research team set out to provide a simple disinfection method for a variety of healthcare facilities, including “outpatient practices, frontline providers, and remote clinical settings.”

“The aim of this work was to identify a generally available microwave-generated steam decontamination method,” the article states. “We only used common household items for this purpose.”

Materials include water, a glass container, a net, a rubber band and a 1,100 or 1,150 watt microwave. The researchers filled the container with 60 milliliters of water and fastened the mesh material over it with a rubber band. Then they put the N95 mask on the mesh and microwaved it for 3 minutes. This effectively killed all viruses, including coronavirus, they say.

“It’s simple, but sometimes very simple things work well,” says Kirby.

The researchers found that this sterilization method could be repeated 20 times on a single N95 mask without damage. Although the type of mask used had a piece of metal, they had no problem heating up or sparking during the 20 test cycles, Kirby said.

Although the study was conducted with a health care perspective in mind, Kirby sees no harm in trying the same method at home.

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