PPE: How to clean and reuse correctly?

The CDC standards for optimizing PPE supplies include extending the use of this equipment beyond the manufacturer’s expiration date. There is a lot of information circulating these days, and while it’s imperative that nurses stay informed and educated, information overload is overwhelming. Here are the CDC standards for most PPE:

Masks & N95 Respirators

In PPE, face masks and N95 respirators may be reused until they are visibly soiled, or it is difficult to breathe through them. Carefully remove and store your mask and respirator when not in use. Always perform hand hygiene before donning and before doffing to minimize contaminating the device.


Users can wear face masks continuously until visibly soiled or moist from respirations. It should be carefully folded so that the outer surface is held inward and against itself to reduce contact with the outer surface during storage. The folded mask can be stored between uses in a clean, sealable paper bag or breathable container.

N95 Respirators in PPE

Users can wear N95 continuously up to 8 hours or reused as long as the inside of the respirator remains clean. And you’re able to breathe easily through it. We should store them between uses in a clean, sealable paper bag or breathable container.

I’ll briefly mention that the CDC does list as a last resort, using a scarf or bandana as a protective barrier when nothing else is available. Yet it is literally the last-ditch after all other options and resources are exhausted, and they admit there is no science behind it.

Eye Protection

When face shields in PPE are not available, use reusable safety glasses or goggles.

How to clean eye protection in PPE

While wearing gloves, carefully wipe the inside, followed by the outside of the face shield or goggles using a clean cloth saturated with neutral detergent solution or cleaning wipe.

Carefully wipe the outside of the face shield or goggles using a wipe or clean cloth saturated with EPA-registered hospital disinfectant solution.

Wipe the outside of face shield or goggles with clean water or alcohol to remove residue.

Fully dry (air dry or use clean absorbent towels).

Remove gloves and perform hand hygiene.


In PPE, users can reuse plastic gowns as long as they are not visibly soiled. Alternatives to paper or plastic gowns include patient gowns, disposable lab coats, and disposable coveralls.

How to Remove a Gown for Reuse

While wearing clean gloves, carefully untie the gown and remove it by gently pulling forward at the sleeves. Hang the gown in an open area and avoid having the gown come in contact with other garments.

Organizations across the globe are scrambling to enact contingency, emergency, and surge policies that they never believed they would need. Nurses must advocate for ourselves, our colleagues, our patients, and our communities to reduce the contagion. Stay informed and stay committed to protecting yourself with the supplies you have on hand.

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