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Coronavirus Questions Answered: Can An Instant Pot Kill The Coronavirus?

Soap and water is still probably the best way to wash cloth face masks. [Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock]
It could be dangerous to use anything other than soap and water to clean. [Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock]

Updated on April 30, 2020 at 10 a.m.

What are your questions about the coronavirus?

ideastream is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can  send us your questions with our online form, through our  social media  pages and  group or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll  keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Many people want to know how to clean masks, especially now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending everyone wear cloth masks in public.

Pat from Olympia asked: "Could a person safely kill the coronavirus on homemade face masks in an electric pressure cooker that's normally used for cooking, such as an Instant Pot?"

A study from Case Western Reserve University and Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center doctors found steam from rice cookers is an effective way to decontaminate some face masks. 

There’s been advice on the internet for at-home sterilization, like putting masks in the microwave, but just because extreme heat from steam could potentially kill viruses, doesn't mean you should try it at home, says Dr. Nikita Desai from the Cleveland Clinic. 

"It's very difficult to achieve the standards of humidity, temperature, length of time, and sterility that you need to completely sterilize something at home," Desai said. 

Soap and water does the trick for washing fabric masks, which a person can do in a sink or in a washing machine, said Case Western Reserve University’s Dr. Scott Frank. He said the temperature of the water doesn’t matter — it’s the soap that’s important.

“The virus is constituted by a lining that is essentially fatty in nature and easily dissolved by soap,” said Frank.

In addition to this, he said any other method of cleaning masks could destroy the material, or worse, start a fire.

Frank said he wouldn’t want to eat out of a pressure cooker that’s had a face mask in it either.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158