When you put on a N95 respirator, insurance that your mask will block all of the local contaminants is of the highest priority. Whether you’re using an N95 mask for the first time, or reusing a mask due to limited availability, there are many factors to consider when it comes to guaranteeing your safety.
Here’s some of the most important elements to be aware of before putting on your next N95 mask:
A surprising fact about N95 masks is that they do, in fact, expire. You can check the expiration date of a mask by inspecting the product label or packaging. Straps on N95 masks are made from a plastic and rubber polymer, which can expand or contract when exposed to heat or cold. This can affect the fit of the mask and prevent proper sealing.
Although if you find yourself with a box of expired masks, you may not necessarily need to throw out that box. If the masks have been stored in a dark and dry place, they should still be ok for use. In fact, in March of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States, the U.S. government sent thousands of expired face masks to several states. As long as the N95 mask still provides a proper seal around your face, it will still protect you from harmful airborne particles.
Mask Reuse Practices
Reusing an N95 mask is possible, although it’s not as convenient as simply putting the mask back on. If your N95 respirator isn’t sealing correctly, or has been soiled with contaminants, it’s important to discard your mask and put on a new one. The CDC often refers to the reuse of an N95 mask as “limited reuse”, and recommends that a respirator should be reused no more than five times under the following guidelines:
- Do not share your respirator with others, and that your respirator doesn’t touch other respirators.
- Decontaminate your N95 mask with Hydrogen Peroxide Vaporization.
- Reprocess your N95 mask with proper UV treatment
N95 mask reuse should only be during times when mask supply is insufficient. If you’re running out of respirators, the CDC recommends extending the wear of your mask up to 8-hours. By keeping a mask on your face for an extended amount of time, it will decrease the chances of breaking the protective seal and being exposed to harmful contaminants.
While it is possible to safely wear a mask when it’s past its expiration date, or on it’s second use, these methods are not ideal. When it comes to keeping yourself safe to harmful airborne contaminants, it’s always best to put on a brand new N95 respirator.
We understand there’s a lot of concern about fake 3M masks. We purchase all of our 3M masks from Medline or McKesson (two of the world’s largest 3M distributors) who, by contract, can only buy them direct from 3M. Every mask is 100% authentic with lot numbers that can be tracked back to the manufacturer. Quality and trust are of utmost importance to us at Pacific Medical Products.