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Coronavirus Questions Answered: Can You Reuse Masks?

Home sterilization of masks is not recommended. [ToKa74 / Shutterstock]
Home sterilization of masks is not recommended. [ToKa74 / Shutterstock]

Updated on April 7, 2020 at 3 p.m.

This post is about surgical and N95 mask home sterilization. Soap and water is recommended for washing and re-using homemade face masks.

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.

A lot of you want to know if you can disinfect masks and reuse them.

Robert from Broadview Heights said he’s tried to microwave a surgical mask, and asked if this is an effective sterilization method.

Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist Dr. Nikita Desai doesn’t recommend this method, or any attempts to sterilize masks at home.

“Just because it looks OK, doesn’t mean it’s safe to use," Desai said. "We’re not at all recommending home sterilization of any kind when it comes to personal protective equipment.”

She said you should only reuse masks based on manufacturer guidelines.

"It's the same reason that a Band-aid on day one is not the same as a Band-aid on day five," she said.

And public health officials say masks should be reserved for healthcare workers and those who are sick because there are limited supplies.

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