Vapourized hydrogen peroxide decontamination in a hospital setting inactivates SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E without compromising filtration efficiency of unexpired N95 respirators

Am J Infect Control. 2021 Oct;49(10):1227-1231. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2021.07.012. Epub 2021 Jul 25.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for evidence-based approaches to decontamination and reuse of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs). We sought to determine whether vapourized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) reduced SARS-CoV-2 bioburden on FFRs without compromising filtration efficiency. We also investigated coronavirus HCoV-229E as a surrogate for decontamination validation testing.

Methods: N95 FFRs were laced with SARS-CoV-2 or HCoV-229E and treated with VHP in a hospital reprocessing facility. After sterilization, viral burden was determined using viral outgrowth in a titration assay, and filtration efficiency of FFRs was tested against ATSM F2299 and NIOSH TEB-STP-APR-0059.

Results: Viable SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detected after VHP treatment. One replicate of the HCoV-229E laced FFRs yielded virus after processing. Unexpired N95 FFRs retained full filtration efficiency after VHP processing. Expired FFRs failed to meet design-specified filtration efficiency and therefore are unsuitable for reprocessing.

Discussion: In-hospital VHP is an effective decontaminant for SARS-CoV-2 on FFRs. Further, filtration efficiency of unexpired respirators is not affected by this decontamination process.

Conclusions: VHP is effective in inactivating SARS-CoV-2 on FFRs without compromising filtration efficiency. HCoV-229E is a suitable surrogate for SARS-CoV-2 for disinfection studies.

Keywords: COVID-19; HCoV-229E; Hydrogen peroxide vapor; Mask reprocessing; N95; Respiratory protection; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Coronavirus 229E, Human*
  • Decontamination
  • Disinfection
  • Equipment Reuse
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • N95 Respirators
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Hydrogen Peroxide