(Continued from Part 1.)
Another option would be to expose your contaminated masks to sunlight. The UV component in sunlight will kill viruses. And if you position the mask just right, as the sun moves across the sky it will irradiate the entire face of the mask without any part being shaded and untreated. (You could even hang your masks from a clothesline if you clip the clothespin to one of the tabs where the strap attaches to the mask proper.)
Unfortunately, for the Shepherdess and I and many other preppers, the weather here in Spokane does not cooperate with this strategy for much of the fall/winter season. It will be too cold, too cloudy, too windy or rainy or snowy to make sunlight sanitation work. And I don’t trust the moose either. But if you’ve got sunlight – put it to work!
Just don’t put the mask on the dash of your car – the lamination of the windshield will block most of the UV light. And if your side windows are tinted that too will block UV. You could make a little aluminum-foil-covered cardboard frame to hold the mask, and cover it with Glad or Saran wrap to keep the dust and bugs and bird poop out of it. Just make sure the frame doesn’t shade your mask!
ULTRAVIOLET (UV) LIGHT
Here’s what we know:
1. We’ve known for decades that ultraviolet light works, especially the higher frequency end of the band, UV-C. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet_germicidal_irradiation Even at low power output, UV-C light tears the living daylights out of bacteria and protozoa and viruses (and you, and your eyes if you’re not careful, and pretty much anything living). https://www.americanultraviolet.com/uv-germicidal-solutions/faq-germicidal.cfml#germicidalLamps
2. “…for influenza virus, dozens of UVGI [UltraViolet Germicidal Irradiation] disinfection cycles could be performed on respirators without the UVGI affecting their performance.” The filter fabric begins to weaken against tearing (and weakens more the higher the UV-C exposure) but it doesn’t affect the filtering efficiency (until the fabric gets too weak and tears) and it doesn’t affect the head straps as much. Simply testing the fabric and straps prior to wearing the mask should be adequate. This seems to be the only downside. (1)
3. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4699414/ We know that a workable sanitizer can’t be too powerful or the mask just comes apart on the first sanitation cycle. So it has to be a relatively low power for the mask to survive 50 cycles [in the proposal at the link]. And at that low power, the cycle takes less than 60 seconds. This is really our only clue as to how long the sanitizer needs to run. Several of the devices I reviewed had a minimum run time of 5 minutes (300 seconds) and I’m satisfied that that will be an adequate time. Run it longer if you like! (2)
So, sounds great, right? What we need then is a (a) reflective box with a (b) UV-C bulb (or a bulb that produces the whole UV range –A, -B, and –C) and a (c) wire rack to hold our contaminated filter masks up so the light can bounce around and even get under to dose the inside surface of the mask as well as the outside.
In a perfect world it would be wonderful if there was a timer on the UV bulb so we didn’t have to rush back to turn it off. And it would be awesome if the whole thing required so little power that we could run it from a battery pack, our little solar panel, the truck’s power port (cigarette lighter), from out trailer’s batteries or the USB port on our laptop or PC. THAT would be awesome.
And yes, such devices exists (and I have no connection with any companies whatsoever!). I bought one from Amazon in early March and when I last checked they were sold out. A familiar story with pandemic supplies. Here’s the link.
I would expect that this product will come back on the market as soon as they can make more of them, so keep checking back if this is something you really want.
So is that the end of the story? Heck no! WalMart sells a nearly identical unit for half of what I paid on Amazon.
It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the Amazon model has, but it has what you need: a reflective box with a UV-C light, a nice little grille in the bottom and it runs on USB power. If you don’t buy one of these before even WalMart runs out then you at least already know the components you need, right? Where can you find those UV lamps? Pet supply stores! Aquarium supply stores! And a lot of the fabric insulated “lunch boxes” are already lined with reflective aluminum. Make. Your. Own. Just remember this WARNING: Never look at an operating UV-C lamp.
And there are at least a dozen other products on Amazon that could be used to sanitize a filter mask – I checked! Just measure your masks and make sure the device has enough room to fit a mask without scrunching it up. Most of these devices are used for barbers or manicurists, but many are used to sanitize children’s toys or baby bottles or towels. They’re not perfect, but they’ll work!
So, with a UV-C filter mask sanitizer of some sort in hand you should be able to re-use your filter masks many times. How often? I have no idea, sorry! We’re expecting to reuse them maybe 5 to 8 times, especially as we utilize the “Extend Your Supply” strategies. If we had 10 to start with, now we’re looking at 80 wears! Treat your masks carefully and you shouldn’t have any issue with mask supplies. Inspect each mask (and your goggles) carefully each time before you wear them to make sure that the headbands will hold and the filter fabric is intact!
So now our “Assisted Re-entry” strategy looks like this (you decide for yourself how far you want to take this stuff!):
1. Wear a mask and goggles at the store (or to visit your Mom in the Care Center). And we’re wearing lightweight windbreakers over our clothes, with the windbreaker hood UP.
2. When you get back to the car, open the driver and rear car doors and take off the windbreaker, fold it up and put it in an open cardboard box in the back seat.
3. Take off the mask and put it in the box. And finally take off your goggles and drop them in. (We’re using a bigger box because there will be times that both of us will be out and about and we want the box to hold all of our items.)
4. Get a sanitizing wipe out of the dispenser/package and meticulously wipe down your hands. “Wet Ones” with benzethonium chloride have been our go-to wipes, but they’re pretty much off the market for now.
5. Now put the lid on the box. Only the inside of the box has potentially be exposed to the viruses.
6. Use the wipe to wipe down the wipes dispenser package. (Hey, you touched it when your hands were contaminated!)
7. Use the wipe to wipe off both car door handles. Be meticulous! Put the wipe in the trash. All the viruses on it should be inactivated at this point.
8. Take your car key(s) and wipe them down as well. Maybe you need a fresh sanitizing wipe by this point? To make this quicker and more efficient our car keys have been isolated from the rest of our keys so we only have to handle and sanitize the car keys.
9. Finally! Take a non-alcohol / non-sanitizing facial wipe. (We’ve chosen these so that its not irritating to the Shepherdess’ facial skin.) Do a preliminary wipe of your face, wiping away from your mouth, nose and eyes whatever wasn’t covered by your protective gear. Second wipe, in the trash. And keep your hands away from your face for the trip home!
We’re not sanitizing our face at this step. We’re physically wiping/scraping away any virus-containing particles that could blow off our face and into our eyes, mouth or nose on the trip home. (Or be accidentally rubbed into our eyes by our hands!)
10. Drive home.
11. Before unloading anything from the car, get decontaminated by your spouse. This is the “assisted” part of this strategy. Grab the box from the back seat.
12. Just inside the door to your house, your spouse holds out the UV sanitizer box and you plop your mask inside. The box gets plugged in and starts doing its thing for 30 minutes. (30 minutes might be overkill, we don’t really know yet!)
13. You sit on a chair and take your shoes off. Your spouse lightly sprays their underside with Lysol or diluted bleach and sets them in a boot tray at the door for the next day.
14. Your spouse takes the folded windbreaker and carefully sets it in some designated place out of the way. (Viruses don’t remain viable as long on fabric surfaces, but we don’t know exactly how long with the COVID-19 virus, yet. Could be as little as 12 hours.) Or your spouse can walk it into the laundry room and into the open washing machine to wash. A Tychem suit is p-r-o-b-a-b-l-y overkill…
15. Pants off and your spouse folds and also sets them aside for a day or two, or sets them aside to carefully hang up outdoors in the lovely, sunny weather (if you live in Yuma), or wash them. After a day or two (?) of just sitting your pants should, theoretically, be safe to wear again.
16. Spouse washes his/her hands in hot soapy water.
17. You walk to the sink and take your goggles out of the box. You wash your goggles off with hot soapy water and set them (why are goggles plural?) out to dry. If you like, after the mask is done in the UV box drop the goggles in for their own turn.
18. Wet a fresh facecloth and get it a little soapy with your favorite facial soap (too soapy makes it hard to wash the soap off your face!). Wash your face, initially wiping away from your mouth, nose and eyes. Be generous with the water and wiping. Rinse off the facecloth and wash the soap off your face. Toss the facecloth into the washing machine for later washing.
19. Wash your hands and forearms for at least 20 – 30 seconds and dry on a towel.
20. Go get dressed! If modesty is an issue, keep a nice bathrobe in your decontamination area to wrap up in.
That’s it! I realize that’s an insane number of steps. But if you do it by the numbers (and make up your own order and steps) eventually it won’t take any time at all. Think it through. What could be contaminated?
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)