During this time, Canadians have become well-acquainted with two things: wearing masks and cooking at home. Those can be combined in a unique way to prolong the life of PPE. As it turns out, an Instant Pot can clean an N95 mask completely.
A recent study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign examined how the Canadian invention can be used to sanitize the N95 respirator for multiple uses.
Civil and environmental engineering professors Thanh “Helen” Nguyen and Vishal Verma found in their work that by basically cooking the masks in an Instant Pot for 50 minutes, they were able to completely decontaminate them without affecting the material or fit.
They discovered that the N95s maintained over 95% of their filtration capacity, as well as their fit, even after 20 cleaning cycles.
"There are many different ways to sterilize something, but most of them will destroy the filtration or the fit of an N95 respirator," Verma told the University of Illinois news.
The researchers hypothesized that using dry heat might be an effective way of cleaning the respirators without affecting the filters or leaving behind any sort of chemical residue.
They even created a video to demonstrate the Instant Pot method.
There should be no water in the machine, and a small towel should be put inside to keep the masks off direct heat (you can sanitize more than one at a time).
The Instant Pot's rice cooking method maintains heat at 100 degrees celsius for 50 minutes, which is enough time to fully clean the PPE.
This cleaning method was used specifically for N95 respirators, which have been in especially high demand during the pandemic.
Unlike the cloth masks that most people are now wearing in their everyday lives, the N95 also protects the wearer from airborne particulates, such as the virus that causes COVID-19.
This type of PPE has mostly been saved for frontline workers, and a company in BC even made a biodegradable prototype.