• Joe Xie

Disinfect N95 Respirators at Home

Since N95 respirators are still in short supply around the world. Many research institutions have been studying ways to disinfect them without degrading their performance.

Many previously CDC validated methods, however, were geared towards healthcare settings where N95 respirators are disinfected with chemical vapors (usually hydrogen peroxide vapor), UV germicidal irradiation, or steam.

However, recently, a team from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University, and Massachusetts General Hospital (Zulauf et al. https://mbio.asm.org/content/11/3/e00997-20/article-info) have discovered a new method to disinfect N95 respirators using materials readily available at home (namely, a 7 cm × 17 cm glass container filled with 60 ml of distilled water and covered with mesh from a produce bag, secured with a rubber band).

The respirator was placed directly over the mesh and after heating for 3 minutes in a residential 1100 watt microwave, nearly all previously viral inoculated surfaces returned non-detect readings.

The best part of the study is that even after 20 cycles of steam disinfection using this method, the N95 still managed to pass respirator fit-testing using OSHA quantitative methods (PortaCount Fit Tester 8038).

This study was a great demonstration that N95s can be effectively decontaminated using materials readily available at home; which will hopefully help those without access to commercial/workplace disinfection methods.