Sporadic shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) have plagued medical professionals and consumers alike during the COVID-19 pandemic. Proper disinfection permits reuse of PPE, particularly the N95 respirator masks viewed as the gold standard for shielding the user against airborne droplets and particles. An efficient sanitization solution likely available in many kitchens has been demonstrated by University of Illinois researchers: dry heating of these masks in an electric cooker

Dry heating for 50 minutes at 100° C in an electric cooker was shown to decontaminate N95 respirators while maintaining their required filtration and fit properties. Masks inoculated with four different viruses, including the coronavirus, were effectively decontaminated via thermal inactivation mechanisms.

The initial particle filtration efficiency of a new mask exceeds 99%. The treated respirators maintained their filtration capacity of more than 95% and kept their fit after 20 cycles of decontamination in the electric cooker. The pressure drop across the mask was also not significantly affected by the decontamination process.

The research published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters indicates that this electric cooker application could enable safe reuse of limited supplies of the respirators, which are originally intended to be one-time-use items.

Dry heating for 50 minutes in an electric cooker decontaminated N95 respirators while maintaining their required filtration and fit properties. Source: Chamteut Oh et al.Dry heating for 50 minutes in an electric cooker decontaminated N95 respirators while maintaining their required filtration and fit properties. Source: Chamteut Oh et al.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com