• N95 respirator masks help protect wearers against airborne viral particles
  • But they are for single use and therefore there is an increasing demand
  • A new study says household electric rice cookers can be used to sanitize and reuse them

Electric multicookers may be able to disinfect N95 respirator masks. A new study says 50 minutes of dry heat in an electric cooker, including a rice cooker, can decontaminate these masks.

Researchers at the University of Illinois found that this could enable people who wear N95 respirator masks to safely reuse them if they face a shortage. The findings of the study are published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

N95 respirator masks help protect people wearing it against airborne droplets and particles like the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

"A cloth mask or surgical mask protects others from droplets the wearer might expel, but a respirator mask protects the wearer by filtering out smaller particles that might carry the virus," the study's lead researcher, Professor Helen Nguyen, told Illinois News Bureau.

The increasing demand for N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to their severe shortage for health care providers, frontline workers and other essential workers. This prompted researchers to search for creative approaches to solving the challenge.

Although there are several ways to sterilize protective equipment, most of them might destroy the filtration or fit factor of the N95 mask. The researchers concluded that dry heat might be an ideal method to meet all three criteria – decontamination, filtration and fit. They tried to find a method that can be easily done by people at home and so tested an electric cooker, that most households own.

The researchers said the electric cookers decontaminated the N95 masks from four different classes of viruses including the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. They also found that this method was more effective than ultraviolet light.

Here’s how you can sanitize your N95 respirator masks using electric cookers:

  • It must be dry heat. Do not add water to the cooker
  • Maintain the temperature to 100 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes
  • Layer the bottom of the cooker with a small towel to keep any part of the respirator from coming into direct contact with the heating element
  • You can also stack multiple masks inside the cooker simultaneously

The researchers hope that this method would be very useful for healthcare workers, frontline workers and first responders, particularly those in smaller clinics or hospitals that lack access to large-scale heat sanitization equipment.

coronavirus N95 masks, scientists reveal heating is the best way to disinfect the mask for reuse
coronavirus N95 masks, scientists reveal heating is the best way to disinfect the mask for reuse enriquelopezgarre - Pixabay