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How long you can wear an N95 mask

Can you keep using your N95 mask over and over again?

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An illustration of the N95 mask.

Can you keep using your N95 mask over and over again?

Illustration by Zoë Petersen, Deseret News

The omicron variant has continued to surge across the country, and experts have advised people to wear stronger masks to ward off the virus.

The news: President Joe Biden said Thursday that the U.S. will give out free high-quality masks to Americans for free.

  • “I know that for some Americans, the mask is not always affordable or convenient to get,” Biden said, per CNBC. “Next week we’ll announce how we’re making high-quality masks available to the American people for free.”

Questions: N95 and KN95 masks have become all of the rage because they’re better at stopping the virus from entering our bodies.

  • However, the masks are different than cloth masks, which might raise questions about how long you can use them.
  • These masks are often slated for single use because they’re often used in medical environments.

What they’e saying: “I wear mine for a week,” Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, told CNN.

  • “People have been talking about 40 hours — I think that’s fine. Really, it’s going to get gross from your face or the straps will get too loose or maybe break before you’re going to lose filtration ability,” she added.
  • Dr. Joe Gastaldo, an infectious disease expert at OhioHealth, told WBNS-TV: “The concern about wearing a mask in public, obviously, if you get particles on it, perhaps even the virus, but if you store it in a dry bag, you are essentially sanitizing again over a period of time.”
  • Dr. Jessica Shepherd, the chief medical officer at VeryWell Health based in New York, told WBNS-TV “It’s not the bag that’s doing the magic trick, it’s actually the process of keeping the mask away from decontaminating someone else or a surface, and also keeping a dry environment in order for the virus to not spread or stay on the mask.”

The bottom line: High-quality masks are important to stop COVID-19 infection. As more people use these N95 and KN95 masks to stay safe, the American population will have to adapt to using them.