Is an FFP2 mask reusable?
FFP2 masks can be purchased at drugstores, DIY stores, and on the Internet.
An FFP2 mask generally costs between two and five euros per unit, which is quite a high price for a mask intended for single use.
Hence the question: Can an FFP2 mask be cleaned at home for reuse? In other words, is an FFP2 mask reusable?
We will first see the recommendations of the health authorities on this subject, then we will focus on the methods of cleaning FFP2 masks studied by German scientists at the Robert Koch Institute.
Recommendation of health authorities and scientists
As an introduction, it is necessary to remember that the French and European health authorities formally advise against the reuse of an FFP2 mask, because the filter could be damaged and the FFP2 mask could lose its functionality as a result. For the same reason, several scientists have spoken out against the reuse of an FFP2 mask.
Nonetheless, now that we know that FFP2 masks officially are not reusable, scientists around the world have conducted several studies to determine whether protective masks, including FFP2 masks, can be cleaned and reused. The main focus of this research has been on the following criteria: Are the pathogens killed? Is the FFP2 mask still functional? Is filtration affected?
Several cleaning methods have thus been studied by scientists.
The cleaning methods of FFP2 masks studied
In March 2020, the German government crisis team advised exposing FFP2 masks to dry heat between 65 and 70 degrees Celsius for at least 30 minutes. We now know that this is not enough to kill viruses. "Between 65 and 70 degrees Celsius, one cannot safely exclude that pathogenic microorganisms remain on the masks after the process," the German Society for the Supply of Sterile Products warned in a statement in August.
Researchers at the Münster School of Health have found in studies that "Sars-CoV-2 on and in FFP2 masks remains infectious at 70 degrees Celsius after more than an hour. It is only at 80 degrees Celsius of dry heat that no infectious coronavirus is detectable after 60 minutes ". Scientists give the following advice: First let the mask air dry for a day. Next, preheat your oven to 80 degrees Celsius (top and bottom heating), place the FFP2 mask on baking paper, then place it in the oven for 60 minutes. "The FFP2 mask only needs to be reprocessed five times in this way, then dumped in the household garbage," the researchers write.
Pathogens from the flora of the nose, throat and skin may still be present on the mask despite this heat treatment. It is therefore important that an FFP2 mask is only reused by the same person.
By hot steam sterilization:
In hospitals, medical equipment is sterilized with hot steam. Is this a viable option for cleaning FFP2 masks? And what should the temperature of the steam be? The German Society for Hospital Hygiene recommends exposing the masks to steam at 121 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes. However, this only applies to hospital items that can be sterilized by a special vacuum process.
Sibylle Anderl, host of the scientific podcast of the journal FAZ, presented a method of home sterilization of FFP2 masks by steam. She refers to a study published last April in the Journal of Medical Virology. For their experiment, the scientists packed the FFP2 masks in airtight plastic bags or a stainless steel box and placed them in boiling water for about five minutes. This will keep the FFP2 masks dry, exposed to heat but not damaged by it. Thanks to this method, FFP2 masks can be reused for seven to ten days, provided they are not damaged and are cleaned regularly, the article says.
Hydrogen peroxide disinfection
A study commissioned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that steam cleaning of hydrogen peroxide might be possible. During testing, the FFP2 respirator retained its function but lost its shape. A similar study in the Netherlands concluded that the method was effective for two decontamination cycles without deformation. However, scientists wrote in the Plus One journal that bleach will severely destroy the filters in the FFP2 mask.
Hydrogen peroxide should be handled with great care. In a more concentrated form, the chemical can be corrosive to the skin, mucous membranes and eyes. A harmful concentration can remain on the mask for days after cleansing and can be toxic.
Disinfection with ethanol, disinfectant spray, washing machine:
Chemical methods that involve immersing the FFP2 mask in liquid ethanol are also not recommended. The masks then lose their protective function.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, disinfectant sprays are also not suitable. Viruses and germs are not guaranteed to be 100% killed.
As the filtration performance of FFP2 masks is reduced when exposed to humidity, Tüv Nord also advises against washing them as this decreases the level of protection.
Conclusion: an FFP2 mask is not normally reusable
Ultimately - and this is a very unsatisfactory answer - everyone has to decide for themselves how often they use an FFP2 mask and if they try to clean it. What is certain is that FFP2 masks minimize the risk of becoming infected and infecting others with the coronavirus. It is important that the mask completely covers the mouth and nose and that it fits properly.
Caution and control of marking
The demand for FFP2 masks is on the rise, so there is a risk that uncertified masks will appear on the market. Pay attention to the labeling. Particle filtering masks (FFP2) must be certified in accordance with the European standards governing FFP2 masks: EN149: 2001 + A1: 2009.
In Achat-Masque-FFP2.fr, we offer FFP2 masks certified in accordance with European regulations, with free and fast delivery, at the best price.
Our masks are therefore available from only € 1.29 per FFP2 mask, i.e. an unbeatable price for certified and authentic FFP2 masks. Our goal is to allow you to be the best protected against the coronavirus, by making the FFP2 masks as accessible as possible.