Thanks to Rutgers researchers, cleaning N95 masks just got faster and cheaper

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey researchers have found a faster and cheaper way to clean PPE for health care workers.

Reusing PPE has become essential during the coronavirus pandemic, so finding a fast, inexpensive cleaning method is critical. Courtney Grady, a graduate student at Rutgers University, says her team has developed a method for cleaning N95 masks using a decontaminant available on many hospital campuses: vaporized hydrogen peroxide.

"We have a room that has an air-regulation system so that we can monitor the amount of peroxide," Grady said. "And effectively we can then have masks loaded into this room, and within a day we can accomplish the decontamination of upwards of 10- to 12,000 masks that can then be sent back to be used by emergency personnel."

She says workers are often worried that, when they send their mask in for cleaning, they won't get the same one back. This process allows workers to put their mask in a paper bag with their name on it, to make certain the mask is returned to them.

"We found that you can keep these masks in brown paper bags, and the vaporized hydrogen peroxide is still able to permeate and fully sterilize those masks, which makes not only the logistics of handing those masks back out, but will expedite and relieve a lot of the extra stress on the people managing the process of decontamination, of reuse," she said.

She says, even inside a bag, the masks are thoroughly cleaned even if caked with makeup, sweat or moisturizer.