Reusability of Facemasks


Millions of facemasks were produced, ordered and worn since the coronavirus outbreak.

Issues with reusability

However, some issues come with that quantity: First of all, often the masks (along with other protective gear) are in short supply. Depending on the model, surgical masks, N95 respirators (which are used in hospital wards) or more sophisticated models are sometimes not available to the public.

Secondly, if a mask was acquired and used, the question arises as to how often one may use it – and if it is possible – to clean it? Reusing surgical masks is certainly not ideal, the best practice would be single use. However, if used accurately (with proper hygiene measures), it can be reused multiple times.  Self-made cloth masks on the other hand, can be conveniently washed between the uses.

Last but not least, disposable masks will sooner or later land in the trash, which is certainly not the best way to take care for the environment.

Novel respirator mask

As a result of mentioned issues, technology development has caught up: A group of researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has now developed a new N95 mask that can be easily sterilized using a variety of methods, and safely reused. As their goal was to maximize the reusability, they developed a system that could be sterilized in multiple ways. Using different techniques, including steam or oven sterilization, as well as alcohol or bleach soaks, the durable silicone body can be sterilized in many ways – while the filters can be removed before the process and popped back in afterwards.