Since COVID-19 has brought on mask requirements and studies showed that putting an N95 mask in the microwave might sanitize it, consumers and professionals have wondered how to sanitize a face mask in the microwave.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Studies have found that an N95 mask may be sanitized in the microwave a total of 20 times before severe material degradation occurs.
  • You should not sanitize a cloth face mask using the microwave since setting the cloth on fire is a risk.
  • If you are not comfortable cleaning an N95 mask in the microwave, you could rotate the mask every 3-4 days or use the oven or boiling water.

However, there has been some confusion over what masks can safely go into the microwave for sanitation because cloth masks and N95 masks, including surgical masks and non-surgical ones, need to be handled differently. The best microwaves safely clean an N95 mask, but they are a fire hazard when heating a cloth one. For additional information about microwaves, check out how to cook with a convection microwave oven.

Cleaning an N95 Mask in the Microwave

In 2020, a study published in the American Society for Microbiology explained how a microwave could clean an N95 mask, also known as an N-95 respirator when hospitals have few supplies. Ideally, you use an N95 mask once and throw it away, but shortages happen. This method only applies to these N95 disposable masks and not the reusable cloth masks in which most consumers have invested. To learn more about alternate ways of sanitization, read on. You may also be interested in knowing what is grilling in a microwave oven?

Insider Tip

An N95 mask may be cleaned using microwave-generated steam from a glass container with mesh over it.

Safety Considerations for Sanitizing Face Masks

Fire departments warn that sanitizing a reusable fabric face mask may cause a fire due to its flammable nature. Because of the confusion surrounding mask types, these fire departments have issued a blanket warning about this practice for all masks. If you are not sure whether you can safely use the microwave to remove the virus, you should consider an alternate cleaning method, such as using a washing machine. If you have an N95 mask and still aren’t comfortable using the microwave, you may want to boil it in water instead. This process should be limited to health care workers exclusively and essential errands like grocery shopping only.

Steps for Sanitizing Your N95 Mask in a Microwave Oven

  • Tools Needed:
    • Microwavable glass container roughly 17 x 17 x 7.5 cm in size or large enough to hold the entire N95 mask, including straps
    • Mesh large enough to cover the container
    • N95 mask
  1. Fill the microwavable glass container about 17 x 17 x 7.5 cm in size with 60 mL of distilled water. Although some may recommend placing the mug in a Ziploc bag, you want to avoid using one due to the tendency for the bag to melt in the microwave. In addition, exposure to this melted bag damages the N95 mask that can compromise the surface.
  2. Cover the container with mesh and place the mask on top with the curve toward the container. You should not be putting the mask directly in the water, but you should be able to fit the entire mask, including the elastic band on top.
  3. Place the container, mesh, and mask in the microwave and microwave for 2-3 minutes. According to research, this should eliminate most or all of the viruses present through microwave-generated steam processing. Next, the hot water will begin to emit the steam required.
  4. Allow it to dry completely before using. This method could work for reuse up to 20 times without detrimental effects. However, if you notice holes or damage to the mask’s surface, you should not continue use. Additionally, any changes to the fit of the mask or elastic band should warn you to dispose of it.

Warning

Using the microwave to sterilize a cloth face mask can lead to fire or damage, so consider a different cleaning method, such as a washing machine.

F.A.Q.S

Should fabric masks be sanitized in a microwave?

No, these masks pose a fire risk when microwaved, according to fire departments. As a result, this method could damage your mask or microwave.


Can I sanitize an N95 mask in the microwave?

Yes, an N95 mask may be sanitized in the microwave. However, you should still use caution when doing so and follow the process exactly.


Can you sanitize and reuse an N 95 mask by running it through a clothes dryer?

You should not clean and reuse a disposable mask unless a shortage of these masks for healthcare workers exists in your area. If you must reuse an N95 mask, you may sanitize it using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, moist-heat incubation, microwave-generated steam processing, or vaporized hydrogen peroxide.



STAT: The ideal method is one that is simultaneously rigorous enough to provide maximal decontamination and yet gentle enough to impart minimal structural damage to the N95 respirator. (source)

Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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