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Decontaminating Facepiece Respirators

COVID-19 Information on Decontaminating Facepiece Respirators

Protecting Against COVID-19

According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), decontamination is not approved as standard of care for disposable filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), such as N95 masks, used to protect healthcare personnel from the spread of COVID-19. However, the agency says this may need to be considered to ensure availability during a pandemic. The CDC offers extensive guidance at its Decontamination and Reuse of Filtering Facepiece Respirators web page.

Some information to note:

  • The CDC says one option is to issue five masks to each healthcare worker who may care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The healthcare worker will wear one respirator each day and store it in a breathable paper bag at the end of each shift, leaving five days between use of each mask to potentially allow the virus to die. Masks still should be handled as if they are contaminated.
  • Limited research is available on decontamination, but potential methods showing promise include ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, vaporous hydrogen peroxide, and moist heat. Steam treatment and liquid hydrogen peroxide show promise with some limitations.
  • Decontamination using autoclaves, dry heat, alcohol, microwave irradiation, or soap and water is not recommended because they cause significant filter degradation. Bleach is not recommended because it causes filter degradation and creates an odor rendering masks unsuitable for use. Disinfectant wipes also may alter performance.
  • Battelle Memorial Institute, a science and technology development firm based in Columbus, has developed the Critical Care Decontamination System to decontaminate N95 respirator masks, allowing them to be used up to 20 times. The technology uses concentrated, vapor phase hydrogen peroxide, exposing masks to an adequate concentration level over an adequate period of time. The use of this system has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Check the FDA website for other systems authorized for use.  
  • A recent study by Stanford University researchers has gained attention following reports that it indicates that N95 masks can be decontaminated in a home oven. However, the study used bacteria different from the virus that causes COVID-19 and involved only one type of fabric used for N95 masks. The method is not approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and study authors stress: “Our reports do not advocate for people to disinfect masks for reuse by heat treatment in home ovens.”
  • The CDC and NIOSH offer guidance on the extended use and limited reuse of N95 masks in healthcare settings.

For answers to your COVID-19 questions, call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

If you or a loved one are experiencing anxiety related to the coronavirus pandemic, help is available. Call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 (1-800-846-8517 TTY); connect with a trained counselor through the Ohio Crisis Text Line by texting the keyword “4HOPE” to 741 741; or call the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services help line at 1-877-275-6364 to find resources in your community. 

Prevention Infographic

Protect yourself and others from COVID-19 by taking these precautions.

  • Stay home 
  • Practice Social Distancing
  • Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals
  • Wash hands often with water and soap (20 seconds or longer)
  • Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry your hands
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces
  • Clean and disinfect "High-Touch" surfaces often
  • Call before visiting your doctor
  • Practice good hygiene habits 

If you have questions regarding Coronavirus/COVID-19 please call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634)


High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.

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