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IOWA — While any mask is better than no mask when it comes to slowing the spread of airborne illnesses, the CDC recommends N95 facemasks for maximum protection. The masks may look like disposables, but can be safely re-used again and again – if they have been properly ‘decontaminated’.

Woven fibers prevent the passage of most airborne particles both in to and out of the mask. However those particles can remain on the surface of the mask. To kill off those particles all you need is a paper lunch sack and some time.

The coronavirus can survive on a surface for up to 72 hours. In its recommendations for health care professionals, the CDC suggests a five-day rotation of N95 masks. Each day when you’re done wearing a mask- place it in a paper bag and set it aside at home. The bag will protect the mask from further contaminates in the air while any allowing anything on the mask to safely, naturely ‘die off’.

The CDC does caution that this approach doesn’t restore a mask to ‘as new’ condition. Masks will continue to lose effectiveness over time as they worn – with that effectiveness decreasing with each “donning” and “doffing”. The CDC also cautions that only individual manufacturers of masks can guarantee the process to decontaminate each specific model.