MSU develops new way to clean, reuse N95 masks


EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State University is using a new method to clean and reuse N95 masks.

The MSU Extension Food Processing Innovation Center is partnering with Sparrow Health System to use specialized equipment to clean and decontaminate used masks.

“The decontamination of masks, particularly N95 masks, is a critical component to addressing the crisis,” MSU Extension Director Jeff Dwyer said.

The cleaning method includes retooling equipment to heat masks in order to kill viruses and bacteria. The masks are then sealed in individual bags to decontaminate for three days before being returned, the university says.

“The real value is that, we believe, we are just days away from finalizing the testing and protocol and then we’re going to make it available for everyone,” Dwyer said. 

Across the country, there has been a rush to give health care workers much-needed equipment like face masks.

Cleaning supplies being used by MSU staff to help prevent the spread of novel coronavirus on campus.
Cleaning supplies being used by MSU staff to help prevent the spread of novel coronavirus on campus. (Courtesy of Michigan State University)

MSU staffers also say they are developing protocols that can be used by others who have commercial-scale spiral ovens.

“Some of my health care colleagues have told me that they believe this protocol could be lifesaving,” Dwyer said. “It’s amazing what we can all do when we all put our minds to it and don’t accept no for an answer at any point of the way.”

At Western Michigan University, staff and professors from several departments are producing personal protective equipment using 3D printers.

WMU’s information technology unit says it has enough material to make 1,500 and has more material on the way.

“With eight printers running simultaneously all day, we expect to make upward of at least 70 shields per day,” Dylan Ledbetter with WMU said.

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