By now, it is a well-established fact that using a N95 is more effective against protecting you from the coronavirus, compared to a normal cloth mask. In fact, in a study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2021, it was found that a N95 mask offers up to 21% more protection than a woven nylon cloth mask, and up to 35% more than medical procedure masks (looped around the ears).
With the rampant spread of the highly infectious Omicron variants of the virus, it is of utmost importance that we equip ourselves in the best way possible to stay safe, and N95 masks go a long way in ensuring that.
HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU REUSE A N95 MASK?
We all know that N95 masks are better than cloth masks, but exactly how many times one can reuse a N95 mask is still unclear to many. Unlike cloth masks, that can be washed and reused a fair few times, doing the same with a N95 mask is not an option. Washing a N95 mask will destroy its effectiveness, as one of the electrostatic layers of the mask (which almost acts as a filter of sorts) will get ruined.
A N95 mask is usually good to use for up to 5 times, according to the Centre for Disease Control, USA but really, it depends on the actual number of hours that you wear the mask. Richard Flagan, who studies masks and aerosols at the California Institute of Technology, says that the amount of time that a mask is worn is more important that how many times you have worn it. If you use the mask for short bursts, say for around 30 minutes a day when you are out for your morning walk, or while making a quick trip to the market, then it is considered safe to use the mask for up to a week.
However, it is important to keep in mind that with each breath you take in a N95 mask, particles continue to accumulate on them, making it difficult to breathe. So as soon as you find that you aren’t able to breathe as comfortably as before wearing the mask, it is best you ditch it, regardless of how many hours you have worn it.
HOW CAN I KEEP MY N95 MASK USEFUL FOR LONGER?
As is the case with most things, proper storage of the N95 masks will ensure its durability and effectiveness for a longer period of time. Throwing in the N95 mask in your purse or bag will not only contaminate your other belongings, but it is also improper mask storing practice. Aubree Gordon, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health points out that storing a mask in a paper bag, by itself, is usually considered to be good practice (while also adding that storing them in an airtight environment, is not.)
ULTIMATELY, YOU ARE THE BEST JUDGE
While it is helpful to keep in mind what the experts say about mask usage, ultimately you are the best judge for deciding a mask’s usability. The structural integrity of a mask is very important, so as soon as you notice signs of it being compromised, it is time to bin the mask. If you notice that the elastic straps are loosening up, or the seal around your face is not fitting as well as before, do not give a second thought to getting rid of the mask. It is also important to keep in mind that if your N95 mask gets wet somehow, it is best not to continue using it anymore.
Remember, a well fitted cloth mask or even surgical masks, will offer more protection than a compromised, ill-fitting N95 mask.
We know that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of options available while buying a N95 mask, but worry not, we at Samarth Community have picked out for you a mask from a trusted brand. So now you can not only protect yourself better from harmful particles around you, but also have the peace of mind of using a genuine product while doing so!