Canberra: Spraying face masks with sanitiser reduces their effectiveness, Australian scientists have found.
In a world-first study published on Thursday, a team from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) revealed that exposing N95 and P2 face masks to alcohol-based sanitisers risks “serious degradation” of their ability to protect from airborne hazards.
Jurg Schutz, lead author of the study, said the findings would help inform people on how to care for disposable masks, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Single-use face masks will continue to be part of many of our lives as they provide us with a defense against Covid, its variants and any future pathogens, but we had been hearing stories about people trying to prolong the life of these masks by cleaning them,” he said in a media release.
“We started thinking about the kinds of products people have been using more during the pandemic, like alcohol-based hand sanitiser and cleaning solutions, and realised these could impact the electrostatic properties of the face masks.
He noted that these masks rely on having an electrostatic charge that attracts particles and traps them like a sticky spiderweb. “But we also know this charge can be destroyed by highly-concentrated alcoholic vapours,” he said.
The research was published as several jurisdictions prepare to ease mask rules.
From Friday night, people in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Victoria will only be required to wear masks in high-risk settings including public transport, airports and healthcare facilities.
Australia on Thursday reported more than 20,000 new coronavirus infections and 36 deaths — 16 in Victoria, 12 in New South Wales and eight in Queensland.