You can now use an Instant Pot to decontaminate your mask, experts say

Add mask sanitizing to the many functions of electric multi-cookers.

A new study says N95 masks can be decontaminated and keeps its form and functions with just 50 minutes of dry heat in an electric cooker, which is often found in kitchens as appliances such as a rice cooker or Instant Pot.

A team from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, headed the study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, which looked into the N95 respirators. The N95 masks have been dubbed one of the best ways to protect you from COVID-19 due to its resistance to airborne droplets and particles but were hard to come by since medical professionals and essential workers needed to use them.

The team, led by civil and environmental engineering professors Thanh Nguyen and Vishal Verma, wanted to find a way to properly sanitize the masks at-home.

“There are many different ways to sterilize something, but most of them will destroy the filtration or the fit of an N95 respirator,” Verma said in a press release. “Any sanitation method would need to decontaminate all surfaces of the respirator, but equally important is maintaining the filtration efficacy and the fit of the respirator to the face of the wearer. Otherwise, it will not offer the right protection.”

Researchers used a Farberware electric cooker to test whether the N95 respirator could be decontaminated. It’s often seen in kitchens as a digital pressure cooker.

During the test, researchers said the pressure cooker decontaminated the masks both inside and out at a temperature of 212 Fahrenheit for 50 minutes. In addition, four types of viruses including coronavirus were effectively washed away.

One other key takeaway is the sterilization process can be repeated. Researchers washed the masks 20 times and found that the viruses were killed on the masks, while the mask itself maintains its shape and the elastic headband was unaffected.

“We built a chamber in my aerosol-testing lab specifically to look at the filtration of the N95 respirators, and measured particles going through it,” Verma said. “The respirators maintained their filtration capacity of more than 95% and kept their fit, still properly seated on the wearer’s face, even after 20 cycles of decontamination in the electric cooker.”