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How often should Respirators be Cleaned?

A woman wearing a respirator

You must have heard people quoting, ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’. And, I am sure no one would deny this fact. Especially when the object to be cleaned is supposedly in the atmosphere of dirt, toxic gases, or pathogens. Respirators come in different forms, types, shapes, and sizes depending upon their applications. They are used to safeguard an individual from the potential hazards of a dangerous environment.

So, if you are wondering how to clean a respirator, then you need not worry. You have arrived at a perfect destination. In this article, we would be guiding you through the pathway of how to clean a respirator. So, let us, deep-dive, into the topic without any further ado.

Why is it important to clean the respirators? 

It is mandatory, or commonly known as an unsaid rule, that regular care & maintenance of PPE is of utmost importance. For the longer life of your reusable respirators, regular inspection, care, and maintenance will surely ensure their longevity and efficiency. When you have a respirator or any PPE that is in the constant attack of an environment that can cause harm, it becomes vital to not neglect the condition of the respirator.

A woman wearing a respirator

But it is observed that most of the time even the inspection of PPE is clearly neglected. Even if the inspection is done, there are high chances that the method used may be wrong or cleaning & maintenance may be delayed to inaccurate inspection conclusions. Respirators & even other PPE must be in the best shape for their desired efficiency & safety. It should be noted that the desired outcome from a respirator or any other PPE is always expected at their best condition. So, it becomes quite important to clean the respirators.

What is the pathway one should follow to clean the respirators? 

The first step is always the inspection of the respirator. Never draw direct conclusions by skipping the inspection. Inspection is basically taking a clear look at the respirator to note whether the PPE is damaged or not. Reusable respirators must be in good shape if you are planning to clean them. If there is an issue with the respirator, you may consider either replacing it or if possible repairing it. The issues may be any sort of damage like cracks, punctures, tears, etc. Here is the detailed inspection walkthrough:

How to inspect a respirator for damage & distortion

  1. Examine the facepiece. Check for any damage or distortion. The facepiece usually may have small punctures, tears, etc. You need to check whether the face seal is distorted or not.
  2. Next up is examining whether the head straps are in a good shape or not. Check their elasticity and look for any damage.
  3. Check the valves & valve covers for any kind of damage or distortion. Examine them with care. If it is necessary, then you can replace the valve covers.
  4. Now, examine other parts for any cracks, punctures, or any other kind of damage. Always, take utmost care of the respirator while performing the inspection.
A sitting woman wearing a respirator

Now, once you are sure about the extent of the damage or distortion, you can make a call. If possible, then replace the parts that are damaged or distorted. If the damage is to a part that is irreplaceable, then you need to replace the respirator. If there is no damage, then you can proceed with the cleaning procedure.

How to clean a respirator for damage & distortion

Firstly, you can use disinfectant wipes to clean the respirators. This is one of the primary methods that one should employ. Here is a detailed procedure for cleaning a respirator:

  1. If there are filters & cartridges, then remove them before cleaning. Filters & cartridges should be either replaced or reused as they cannot be cleaned.
  2. Clean the facepiece with a lukewarm soap solution followed by disinfection with a disinfectant solution. Use a soft scrub or brush to wipe the surfaces clean. 
  3. Now, immerse the facepiece in clean & lukewarm water. Next, place the facepiece in dry air. Allow the facepiece to dry.
  4. Now, you need to assemble all the components of the respirator. Before that do inspect all the parts. If any deterioration or damage is spotted, then replace the respirator.
  5. The clean respirator should be stored in a neat & dry place.

Storage of respirators

It is important that one stores the respirator properly. You just cannot keep it anywhere. For proper maintenance of a respirator, it is important to properly store it. Respirators should be stored in a neat, cool & dry place away from moisture, light, and heat. You can also use storage bags for storing a respirator. Never store respirators in normal clothes.

TIP: How frequently should you use N95 or KN95 respirators?

N95 or KN95 respirators should be used once every 4 days. If you use one respirator on the first day, store it properly for the next 3-4 days, and then wear it. It is prescribed as any novel coronaviruses on the respirator will die after the stipulated period of 72 hours. 

KN95 Respirator

How often should the respirators be cleaned?

It is suggested by many experts that respirators should be cleaned after a single-use. Always note that the respirators will safeguard your interests only if you take care of them. Remember that you need to inspect for any defects or deterioration before you clean it. The inspection must be done with utmost care & attention as one can miss out on minute damages. Always try to remind yourself about keeping your respirator clean.


Do check the instructions provided by the manufacturer related to inspection, cleaning, and maintenance of the respirators. For example, you can check out the instructions given by 3M.