Decontamination of Face Masks With Steam for Mask Reuse in Fighting the Pandemic COVID-19: Experimental Supports

J Med Virol. 2020 Apr 22;10.1002/jmv.25921. doi: 10.1002/jmv.25921. Online ahead of print.


The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) has claimed many lives worldwide. Wearing medical masks (MMs) or N95 masks ([N95Ms] namely N95 respirators) can slow the virus spread and reduce the infection risk. Reuse of these masks can minimize waste, protect the environment, and help solve the current imminent shortage of masks. Disinfection of used masks is needed for their reuse with safety, but improper decontamination can damage the blocking structure of masks. In this study, we demonstrated using the avian coronavirus of infectious bronchitis virus to mimic SARS-CoV-2 that MMs and N95Ms retained their blocking efficacy even after being steamed on boiling water for 2 hours. We also demonstrated that three brands of MMs blocked over 99% viruses in aerosols. The avian coronavirus was completely inactivated after being steamed for 5 minutes. Altogether, this study suggested that MMs are adequate for use on most social occasions and both MMs and N95Ms can be reused for a few days with steam decontamination between use.

Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus; decontamination; mask; reuse.