GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Some East Texans had N95 masks before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
KLTV’s Jamey Boyum talks with the Gregg County Health Authority to find out how to take care of the N95 masks, as well as cloth masks, for reuse.
Dr. Lewis Browne is very familiar with N95 masks and in the past they would be used and discarded. But he said they can be reused several times.
“We really don’t know how many times you reuse them. What we usually tell people is when they get soiled and you can see visual soiling on the outside you probably need to get rid of them,” Browne said.
He said the best way to let them decontaminate is to keep track of them.
“Have five masks. Have five brown paper sacks. You label them one through five and you wear the first mask that full day and then you put it in the paper sack and you go to day two. Then you go to day three, day four, day five; by the time you get back to the fifth mask everything that could have been on it should have died,” Browne said.
He said paper bags are the way to go.
“You do not want to put it in a plastic bag. You want it in a paper sack so it will dry and air gets into it,” Browne said.
He says that’s also a good way to keep the N95s clean, and ads that moisture is the enemy.
“The viruses stay in little liquid particles and anything that will help those particles dry out faster should inactivate the virus faster. We know the things can last up to three days on surfaces,” Browne said.
And as far as putting the N95s on your dashboard:
“It’s very good to kill, because the ultraviolet rays will kill the bacteria and viruses on it. But the heat on your dashboard and the heat in your car will make the elastic for sure deteriorate and the rest of the mask will probably deteriorate because it will be getting so hot,” Browne said.
He said if a mask is too hot for too long:
“It quits filtering like it should.”
And as far as cloth masks:
“You do want a fairly tight weave. Some of the people were using these very loose, almost like the toboggan hats; those don’t filter at all,” Browne said.
He said it’s not good if you can see through it while holding it up to the light. And of course cloth is washable where N95s are not. Browne said with care they can last a while.
“I’ve still got some masks I’m still using from the very first of March,” Brown said.
He adds that if the N95 mask is worn properly, it will be a bit of a struggle to breathe and using it correctly will not fog up your glasses.