Wednesday, January 26

Coronavirus. More effective, but more expensive: by the way, can you wash your FFP2 mask?

Faced with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, several experts are calling for the generalization of FFP2 masks, recognizable by their duckbill shape. More expensive in shops, are they, like surgical masks, washable and therefore reusable? Do they remain effective after washing? Answer: yes, it is possible …

First of all, what is an FFP2 mask?

This mask protects the respiratory tract against fine and toxic particles, dust or certain viruses. It protects both its wearer and those around it. More adjusted on the face – it has less tendency to descend below the nose – and more covering, the FFP2 is more filtering (at least 94% of aerosols of average size 0.6 microgram), by its shape – it does not yawn not on the sides, unlike surgical) – and its material.

Another advantage: its duration of protection can go up to eight hours, against 4 hours maximum for the surgical mask.

Up to six times more expensive than a surgical mask

But being better protected comes at a cost … As you have noticed, the FFP2 mask is more expensive than the surgical one: up to six times more expensive. In commerce, it is found between 50 and 60 centimes a piece. A price that goes down to 30 to 40 cents for wholesale orders from healthcare professionals.

Official instructions … and the rest

While the opposite was said at the start of the pandemic, surgical masks, normally intended to be discarded after 4 hours of use, retain very good filtration capacities after ten machine washes at 60 ° C, according to the consumer association UFC-What to choose who tested three models. This statement was confirmed by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) last October.

We wanted to know if it was the same for the FFP2. Head to the bathroom. Already – and this is already a good clue – after a machine, the mask seems intact. It has not deteriorated and even the fasteners remain intact. The French Association for Standardization (Afnor) However, it tells us: “Standard NF EN 149 does not recommend anything in terms of maintenance because an FFP2 is disposable. If there were reusable FFP2s, in this case it would be up to the manufacturer to include the maintenance conditions in their instructions. “

Unsurprisingly, response from the manufacturers we contacted: “Our masks are not washable”, writes us for example. the company Auriol. “We do not have a washable FFP2 mask”, explains for his part. The Voussert brand, referring us to other washable masks that are not “duckbills”. Indeed, the manufacturers stick to the standards (otherwise they lose their certification), so they will never say that they can wash their masks. In addition, the more we recycle a mask, the less we buy …

In reality, as for surgical masks and contrary to official instructions, the reuse of FFP2 masks – for non-medical use – is possible without compromising their performance after being put in the machine and in the dryer. Because it is composed of several layers …

UFC-Que Choisir has done some promising laboratory tests: “We have verified the breathability and filtration performance of 3 FFP2 masks (NF EN149) and one KN95 mask (the Chinese equivalent, GB2626 standard) in their new condition. first, then after 10 washes at 60 ° C (temperature supposed to destroy the viral load) and dry. The performance of these masks being strictly standardized and our results homogeneous, we can assume that our conclusions are valid for most FFP2 masks that are found on the market (as long as they scrupulously comply with the standard) ”, believes the association (read the full conclusion of the study here).

However, washing should not be overused. If the filtration capacity seems little reduced by machine washes, the comfort of use and the purely electrostatic filtration are affected. Also, sometimes the fabric pills up and it’s not very nice.

Be careful, for caregivers, it’s different. FFP2 masks cannot be washed off when it comes to use them in the medical environment. Indeed, the bacterial load for medical use is far too great to be eliminated during washing, can we read on Medisafe, the health and safety blog for professionals.

Masks have an expiration date

Did you know ? Even if they present no risk, some masks can … expire. Indeed, according to the Directorate General of Health (DGS), the materials that make up the masks can degrade over time. “This degradation mainly concerns the elastics which allow the mask to be placed correctly on the face. If these rubber bands are damaged too much, the mask may not hold well enough and may not provide proper protection. Filters remain effective, well beyond the expiration date ”, tells the DGS to LCI.

At a press conference in May 2020 – at the start of the coronavirus crisis! – the Prime Minister at the time, Édouard Philippe, indicated that the State had found in its stocks more than 400 million expired masks (dating from the 2000s!). Only 160 million had been deemed reusable … The others had ended up in the trash.

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