MedPPE Blog April 3

What You Wanted to Know About Masks but Didn’t Think to Ask

“Can I microwave my mask?” and other mask questions you always wanted to ask!


Will masks be our “new normal” after the pandemic has gone? 

Some say this virus has changed their behaviour forever, particularly when it comes to hygiene practices like hand-washing and mask wearing. 

It happened after the 2003 acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic as well. That pandemic created healthier habits for the long term, particularly in Asia, where after more than 280 died, people embraced mask-wearing in public. 

What was learned and implemented during that pandemic helped to control this outbreak, with measures such as social distancing, travel bans and wearing masks. Given the recent history of highly contagious diseases in the world, wearing a mask when in a crowded area seems like a good idea for some time to come.


Can you microwave masks to kill germs?

Simple answer: No. You cannot nuke a mask to kill germs. It doesn’t work and it’s not a great idea. There is no evidence to support the theory and if there’s a metal piece, staples or a polypropylene material layer in an N95, surgical mask or 3-ply medical mask, you can’t microwave them. If you have a homemade or cloth mask, hand-washing it with soap and water works best, or put them in a mesh wash bag in the washing machine so they don’t come apart, and use a high-heat setting. Microwaving doesn’t work.


Can you reuse disposable masks?

If you have a disposable surgical, 3-ply or other medical-grade mask, these can be reused in non-medical environments. To disinfect a disposable mask, leave it hanging in a clean, safe place in your house for several days, where no one will touch it. After that, it should no longer be infectious.


What’s the difference between a surgical mask and an N95 mask?

A surgical mask is worn by medical professionals in a hospital, clinic or care home to protect the patient from the medical worker’s germs and to avoid spreading the virus. 

N95 or KN95 respirators are masks that are fitted to the face—health care workers wear them when treating patients. They are the only masks that prevent very small particles from getting out or in, when used properly. If you’re able to opt for using a N95 or a KN95 mask, you should do so. 


Med PPE Canada’s KN95 respirator masks are recommended by Health Canada, the CDC, approved by the FDA and are an essential resource for keeping healthcare workers and the public safe. With almost identical specifications, these masks have similar filter performance, flow rate, inhalation and exhalation metrics resistance and KN95 masks are manufactured from a non-woven fabric which helps keep users safe. For more information, go to:


Do I have to shave off my beard to wear a mask properly?

It depends on the beard. If the beard is just sort of stubble-sized like George Clooney often sports, it’s probably OK. However, if you’ve taken more of a “Unabomber” approach to laissez-faire grooming and it’s resulted in a Brad Pitt style scraggly goatee, better reach for the razor. A thick, bushy beard is a problem because it stops the mask from hugging the contours of the face, particles leak out and in and therefore the mask can’t protect anyone.


How are face shields different from masks? Are they recommended?

Although face shields aren’t necessary for people who are not frontline or essential workers, as long as you’re properly masked underneath the face shield, an extra safety barrier is always a good idea. Durable, reusable face shields are now available through Med PPE Canada. Designed to be comfortable and easy to wear, face shields protect the wearer from water droplets that can contain harmful chemicals or infectious pathogens. When combined with a respirator mask face shields can add an amazing level of protection to the wearer. For more information, go to:


I love to wear my trendy sunglasses, but when I put on my mask, they fog up instantly. How can I prevent the temporary blindness?

The most effective way to stop your steamy breathing from causing your lens to fog up is to make sure your mask fits well. How well a mask works depends on two things: filtration and fit. Good filtration prevents as many particles as possible from escaping, and a good fit means that there are no leaks around the sides, where air—and viruses—can leak through. Even a small gap can degrade the performance of your mask by 50 percent and fog up your glasses. So double-masking is probably the answer (for more on this see Med PPE Canada’s April 2021 blog: Is Wearing Two Masks Better Than One? Experts Say it’s Time to Layer Up).

Put on a disposable medical mask, then cover it with a tight-fitting fabric mask, so you are wearing two masks at once. To determine if your double masking technique is effective, check the extremities of the mask around your face, especially at the bridge of the nose and around the chin and cheeks. There should be no sensation of warm air escaping from the mask. If air is not leaking, it’s an indication that the mask you’re wearing is a good fit.  Also, your lens shouldn’t become foggy. If there is still a bit of fog on your glasses, try washing your lenses with dish soap and let them air dry. It creates a thin surfactant (or surface-active agent) layer, which prevents fogging.


Masks irritate my super sensitive skin. What can I do?

Quite a few people suffer from “Mask-ne” syndrome, and changing your cleansing routine might help. Cleanse every morning and evening and use a good exfoliant frequently to prevent outbreaks. If you like to wear foundation under your mask, try using a lighter base such as a good-quality tinted sunscreen that won’t clog pores, such as Clinique’s “Moisture Surge Colour Corrector.” Wear a cloth mask made from natural materials, like cotton or silk, next to your skin, reinforced with a disposable surgical mask on top.


What can I do to help people with autism spectrum disorder adjust to wearing a face mask? 

April 2 is Autism Awareness Day and it’s the occasion to light up the world in blue to recognize the challenges that people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) face every single day. According to a National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System report, the prevalence in Canada of autism is one in 66 children: one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls. 

Autism is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, insistence on sameness and sensory intolerances. Many children as well as adults have difficulty adapting to wearing a face mask. 

As some people with ASD are sensitive to touch, wearing a face mask might present unpleasant sensations. The front of a medical mask might have a scratchy fabric, and the back may feel rough on the skin. Sensations under the mask include dampness and a smell of recycled air. 

Also, face masks may create communication challenges with speech and comprehension, making it more difficult to interpret another person’s facial expressions. The eyes are the most visible focus of a face wearing a mask and sometimes people with ASD experience difficulty making eye contact with others. Also, masks can muffle voices, so speech may become more difficult.

An effective way to help a person with ASD adapt to a face mask is to demonstrate its use on a family member, but first let the person with ASD select their mask from an array of preferred options. Adopting a double-mask strategy may be a good practice: let them choose a soft fabric for the mask next to their skin, then cover it with a safer, more effective medical mask. 

Start by having the person with ASD practice wearing a face mask for short durations of time, then work up to longer periods. Hang a printed photo of the person with ASD wearing a face mask next to the front door as a visual cue to put the mask on before leaving the house. Another effective tip is to provide chewing gum or a hard candy as a distraction. Also, the candy or gum will improve the smell of recycled air behind the mask.