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Updated on Jul 22, 2020. Posted on Jul 20, 2020

If You Wear N95 Masks, You Can Clean Them In An Instant Pot

Is there anything the Instant Pot *can't* do?

Several months into quarantine, it's fair to say we're all super used to the whole mask thing by now.

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We have our favorites; we've conquered maskne; we've listened to Bill Nye. We're mask pros!!!

But one thing that's still a bit of a chore is cleaning them. Or, if you have disposable masks — like the N95 — keeping a stash stocked.

Photo of N95 mask
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(Reminder that for most, the CDC recommends using cloth face masks to prevent virus spread. N95 respirators are intended for healthcare workers and medical pros with higher risk of exposure.)

For the latter, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there's an easy at-home method to clean and decontaminate N95s. And all you need is one thing...

An Instant Pot! 👇

Photo of Instant Pot
Mariela Summerhays / BuzzFeed

Or any sort of multicooker, really. As long as it can hold a temperature of 149°F (or 65°C) for 30 minutes.

After testing, DHS recommends the method in this tutorial:

View this video on YouTube

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You'll place your mask in a paper bag...

Photo of person placing N95 mask into paper bag

Seal the bag, then put it on an elevated surface over a bit of water...

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For the elevated surface, use the trivet that came with your Instant Pot. If you need to boost it higher, place the trivet on top of binder clips or on a coiled base of aluminum foil.

(Also, the paper bag is key: You don't want the mask to touch the water!)

Secure the lid and set the temp to 149°F. Let it go for 30 minutes:

Photo of the temperature setting on an Instant Pot
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On an Instant Pot, set the temperature after pressing the "Sous Vide" function. After 30 minutes, remove the mask and let it dry before using again.

Testing showed that this method was effective in decontamination.

Specifically, the "moist heat" (sorry, their words) works to decontaminate the mask. The paper bag allows steam to get through and disinfect — without destroying the mask with too much moisture.

But DHS points out that this method is meant for use in supply shortage situations.

Photo of a decontaminated mask being taken out of the Instant Pot
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N95s are supposed to be single-use, but if needed — especially given that supply shortages are still very much ongoing — this is a low-cost way to reuse them.

DHS tests used this method up to five times per mask. But they also note that you shouldn't do this if your N95 is already visually dirty or broken. If that's the case, toss it!

Watch the full how-to video here and read up on decontamination FAQs here.

Keep masking, friends!!

Photo of a Hamilton-themed cloth mask
LittleShopOfGeeks / Etsy

(And for us nonmedical pros out there, find this Hamilton mask on Etsy. ✨)