All about N95 masks

All about N95 masks


In front of the resurgence of the coronavirus and its Omicron variant worldwide, governments and specialists continue to promote the use of the famous N95 mask. But what is an N95 mask? How to use it properly? Can it be reused? Here is a portrait of this protective equipment, which is of paramount importance in this time of health crisis.


The N95 is a protective mask with a fine mesh synthetic polymer filter. The number 95 means that the mask filters out 95% or more of airborne particles, including splashes that may contain bacteria or viruses. This type of mask protects against dusts, mists, smokes and small quantities of bioaerosols. Oxygen molecules can pass through freely, allowing people wearing N95 masks to breathe properly. On the other hand, the N in N95 stands for “not oil resistant”.


N95 masks are usually single-use masks. However, the Public Health Expertise and Reference Centre (INSPQ) states that “in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and a real or feared shortage of respirators, it is possible to reuse an N95 mask”. Urgences-santé Québec mentions that it is necessary to limit the number of reuses to five to ensure the safety of the user and others.


The INSPQ suggests that the number of uses should be limited to five if the manufacturer has not left any instructions.

Between uses, it is suggested that the mask be kept in a clean, air-permeable container such as a paper bag. In addition, it is important to wear a pair of clean gloves when using a used N95 mask. In case of accidental contact, hands should be washed. It is also crucial to avoid touching the front and inside of the mask to avoid contamination.

Before reusing an N95, it is imperative to perform a leak test. This is why the INSPQ strongly recommends that employees receive training on this type of test. In addition, it is important to mention that, in order to perform a leak test, the user must have shaved within the last 24 hours.

Learn more about the beard and the respiratory protection mask.

It is also essential to check the mask before wearing it. It is best to discard the facepiece if it is damaged, torn, contaminated or does not pass the leak test.

To keep you well protected, check out our N95 mask inventory right

For healthcare workers (disinfection)

A type N95 mask can also be reused following the disinfection associated with the Health Canada Interim Order for COVID-19. The disinfection authorized by this Interim Order must be done only by the following technologies:

  • Low-temperature sterilizers: STERRAD 100S, STERRAD NX and STERRAD 100NX from the company ASP (2021), Sterizone/VP4 from the company Stryker (2020) and V-PRO 1Plus, V-PRO maX, V-PRO maX2, V-PRO S2 from the company Steris (2020a).
  • High-temperature sterilizers (steam sterilizers): AMSCO 400 and Century Medium from the company Steris (2020b) and BRAVO 17V and BRAVO 21V from the company SciCan Ltd (2021).
  • Hydrogen peroxide vaporizers (room disinfection devices): the BQ50, L4, PROTEQ and Q10 models from Bioquell (2020).
  • Disinfection device combining several technologies (UVC, vaporized hydrogen peroxide and ozone): Clean Flow Health Care Mini from Clean Works Medical (Clean Works, 2020).
  • The disinfection device combining UVC with microwaves, hydrogen peroxide and ozone: PureTechTM from Medera Technologies Inc. (PureTechTM, 2021).

(Source: INSPQ, COVID-19: Collection, Disinfection and Storage Processes for Single-Use N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators, https://www.inspq.qc.ca/sites/default/files/publications/2965-disinfection-storagesingle-use-n95-facepiece-respirators.pdf)


It is possible to disinfect your N95 mask using the methods listed above. However, it is essential to respect the number of disinfection cycles specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. In addition, if the N95 shows signs of soiling, moisture or some form of damage, it should be disposed of. The same applies if the mask has been used for a medical aerosol procedure (IMGA).


It is possible to disinfect N95 masks by following the specific indications of the INSPQ. As previously mentioned, several technologies are accredited to provide safe and effective disinfection. To learn more about N95 mask disinfection methods, please refer to the official INSPQ document on the subject.


N95 must remain in the container before use to avoid contamination. The INSPQ specifies that the mask must stay in place on the health care worker’s face during use and must be immediately replaced in its container as soon as it is removed. It should never be left on the neck, head, or attached to an ear.

It is also important to put on and remove the mask safely. To learn more about the proper techniques for donning and doffing an N95 mask, click here.

Please follow the public health and manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the mask’s use, reuse, and disposal standards.

Authorities have called for rigorous and judicious management of the use of N95 masks to address a potential shortage. The following links will keep you informed of developments.

1. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

2. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/medical-devices/masks-respirators-covid19.html