Decontamination refers to the process of sterilizing masks by decreasing the number of bacteria and/or viruses on used masks and is of vital importance. Decontaminating your reusable masks ensures that you are reducing the risk of self-contamination from any of the pathogens which may linger, especially after you have used them.

Decontamination of Reusable Half and Full Facepiece Respirators

When it comes to decontaminating reusable respirators, it is important to disinfect them immediately after taking them off and after each use. Although different manufacturers may have different decontamination procedures and solutions, the steps below provide a general overview of how to effectively sanitize your respirators so that they are properly protected with each use.

  • Glove up first: wear disposable gloves are worn as a barrier between your hands and any pathogens that may be on the respirator. If you don’t have gloves, wash your hands thoroughly before and after.

  • Get the filter out: Remove any filters or cartridges as these cannot be cleaned without damaging them.
  • Clean the facepiece and straps: Wash the body of the mask manually as this will remove dirt and other surface matter such as dust, sand, body oil and makeup that could break down the material of the mask or lead to bacterial growth.

    • Submerge the facepiece in warm water. The temperature of the water should not exceed the max recommended temperature of the product, which is usually 49°C/120°F. Doing so helps to avoid damaging or melting the respirator.
    • Add a neutral laundry detergent or neutral washing up liquid to the warm water, and using a soft brush, scrub the facepiece until clean. Generally, detergents should not contain lanolin or other oils, and strong detergents/solvents should not be used as they can damage the facepiece.
    • Using a soft brush, scrub the facepiece until clean.
    • Rinse the facepiece with fresh warm water
    • Allow to air-dry by leaving the facepiece in a sterile location.
  • Disinfect & sterilize the facepiece and straps: This removes viral particles and contamination.

    • Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer of your respirator.
    • Usually, this process will involve soaking, wiping, or spraying the facepiece with disinfectant (often alcohol-based). 
    • Remember, cleaning and disinfecting are not the same – you need to do both steps!
  • Put it back together: Reassemble the respirator as described in your user manual. If the respirator is not to be used immediately after decontamination, place the respirator in a breathable, clean storage container like a paper bag.

Note: We recommend washing your hands or removing your gloves, after you have disinfected your entire mask. Only then, you should reassemble your cleaned reusable respirator, seeing as bacteria and other microorganisms are able to transfer from one decontamination step to another. Throughout this entire process, be sure to not touch your nose, mouth or eyes; these are the main entry points of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other pathogens as well. While this may seem unnecessary, individuals who are severely immunocompromised are advised to do so.