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VCU Develops Process to Re-Use Protective Equipment

metal rack with medical masks hanging on it
N95 masks are decontaminated by using high-intensity ultraviolet light. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Kates)

VCU Health has developed a process and equipment to decontaminate and clean N95 masks, so healthcare workers can safely reuse them.

The process starts by placing the masks on iron racks and sterilizing them with high-intensity ultraviolet light, which is also used for patient and operating rooms. Teams at VCU Health are working in two shifts and will be able to process up to 12,000 masks a day.

Officials say once a mask is cleaned, it’s returned to the healthcare worker who originally wore it.

Richmond artist Keith Ramsey, a VCU alum, collaborated with VCU Health to design and weld 13 of the iron racks being used in the process. A spokesperson for VCU Health says he also hand delivered the finished frames to the facility

"[Ramsey's] willingness to participate on short notice made him an invaluable resource in the effort to get this project completed," Laura Rossacher, a spokesperson for VCU Health, wrote in an email to VPM News. 

VCU Health says while other methods to decontaminate masks work, like using alcohol or steam, they can also compromise the integrity of the masks after one or two uses.

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