TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On Friday (March 7), a chemistry teacher uploaded a video demonstrating why spraying disinfectant on a mask in an attempt to reuse it destroys its waterproof properties, rendering it useless.
While the production of surgical face masks continues to be ramped up as fears of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) continue in Taiwan, many are seeking ways to reuse their face masks, which are designed for only one use. Some have tried to spray disinfectant on their masks to make them safe for reuse, but a video uploaded on Friday demonstrates that this actually destroys their protective value.
In the video, a woman can be seen filling a surgical mask with water. The mask appears to be retaining the water quite well. However, when an assistant sprays 75 percent alcohol on the mask, after just a couple of light bursts of mist from the bottle, water starts rapidly pouring through the mask.
The woman in the video says that spraying alcohol-based disinfectants on a mask will damage it and create a "big breach in its defenses."
Chang Pi-pai (張丕白), a chemistry teacher at Taipei's Kainan Vocational High School, told TVBS that many people spray alcohol on their masks to disinfect them, but what they do not realize is that this will damage the waterproof material. Chang said, "Because of the need to block liquid droplets, the masks have a layer of waterproof coating on the surface. After alcohol is added, as alcohol is both lipophilic and hydrophilic, it will dissolve part of this coating. If this coating is dissolved, water will easily pass through it."
Chang said that after spraying a mask with alcohol, the affected areas will become transparent, indicating where the waterproof layer has been destroyed. Chang added that even if the mask is quickly dried with a hairdryer, its effectiveness has already been compromised.
Alternatively, a study led by an associate professor at Chung Shan Medical University Department of Occupational Safety and Health, Lai Chane-yu (賴全裕), and his team found that a common rice cooker can "dry steam" a surgical face mask and achieve a sterilization effect. However, Lai emphasized that the method reduces the mask's filter quality and that such a method should only be used during an emergency when masks are in short supply.